Playing their second consecutive tie on the second day of the 2015 International Premier Tennis League, the UAE Royals players looked in good nick, and they made sure that their winning momentum remained intact.
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The Royals squad outperformed themselves on Day 2, taking each set of their tie against the home team, the Japan Warriors, in utterly dominant fashion. Here's a look at how each of the sets transpired:
Mixed doubles: Sharapova/Herbert AND Paes (Japan Warriors) vs Mladenovic/Nestor (UAE Royals)
World No. 1 Maria Sharapova played with doubles specialist Pierre-Hugues Herbert to win the Warriors’ first mixed doubles tie yesterday, but the two showed chinks in their armour as they faltered a few times in their doubles match. Although they won the set yesterday, they were up today against the dominant Mladenovic and Nestor, who showed nothing but complete coordination and synchronisation in their own tie, defeating Marcelo Melo and Karolina Pliskova of the Indian Aces on Day 1.
Mladenovic and Nestor have also won two Grand Slams together, and were the favourites coming into the draw. They did not disappoint, and took an early 4-0 lead to start the tie. The Warriors then substituted one doubles champion for a 17-Grand Slam winning one, as Leander Paes came on in place of the Frenchman. But was not enough to save them.
The Warriors were unable to open their account at all against the Royals, who won 6-0. This gave the Royals a huge lead in the tie right off the bat.
Result: Mladenovic/Nestor def. Sharapova/Paes 6-0
Women’s singles: Ana Ivanovic (UAE Royals) vs Maria Sharapova (Japan Warriors)
Unbeaten yesterday, Sharapova appeared to be out of both luck and momentum on Day 2. Having already lost the mixed doubles in weak fashion, Sharapova was up against another former No. 1 in Ana Ivanovic. Her singles loss was not as comprehensive as her doubles loss, however, as she managed to take four games before finally succumbing to the Serb.
Ivanovic took the first game and looked the better player all through. The Russian committed four double faults and 11 unforced errors, with Ivanovic serving for the set at 5-4 and winning it.
With Ivanovic’s win, the Royals took a 12-4 lead. This was also the Russian ace’s last match of the tournament.
Result: Ivanovic def. Sharapova 6-4
Legends’ singles: Marat Safin (Japan Warriors) vs Goran Ivanisevic (UAE Royals)
Former World No. 1 Safin came into today’s tie on the back of a loss to the Indian Aces’ legend Fabrice Santoro yesterday. Although he put in a good performance then, it had not been enough – and that very recent history repeated itself today, playing out just a little differently.
The Russian shot-maker held and then broke to take the first two games in the set, and anyone watching would likely have expected him to continue in dominant fashion to close out the set easily. But that was not the case; Ivanisevic pulled off some stunning volleys, breaking Safin as his powerful groundstrokes turned the set on its head.
Now serving for the match, the Croat came back from a losing position to take the set 6-4. The win took the Royals to an 18-8 lead.
Result: Ivanisevic def. Safin 6-4
Men’s doubles: Paes/Herbert (Japan Warriors) vs Nestor/Berdych (UAE Royals)
On paper, the Japan Warriors looked the stronger team by far; both players in this draw are known for their doubles prowess, and while the ‘Berdman’ is a talented singles player and was partnered by the more-than-able Daniel Nestor, he has not had as much success at doubles as either his partner or competitors.
Unfortunately for the Warriors, however, things did not go their way. Despite some fast serving and volleying by their doubles stars, they were outclassed by Nestor and Berdych, who committed fewer unforced errors. Paes and Herbert were taken to break point 10 times and lost two of those.
The Canadian-Czech pair ultimately took an initially unexpected victory over their Japan Warriors rivals to take the UAE Royals to a 24-12 lead.
Result: Nestor/Berdych def. Paes/Hugues Herbert 6-4
Men’s singles: Tomas Berdych (UAE Royals) vs Philipp Kohlschreiber (Japan Warriors)
This was not a draw many had expected, with several spectators and enthusiasts looking forward to a repeat of the ATP World Tour Finals, which saw Kei Nishikori display some nimble footwork against his Czech rival.
However, the Japan Warriors’ marquee signing did not play today, with Germany’s Philipp Kohlschreiber taking on Berdych instead.
With this in mind, Berdych was widely expected to take victory; the pair have met nine times on the ATP circuit, with the Czech taking eight of those matches. This was the pair’s first meeting this year, however, and it went predictably.
Although Kohlschreiber showed flashes of brilliance, the 6th ranked Berdych outplayed him completely, hitting three aces as Kohlschreiber was unable to hit a single one. The German was unable to break his competitor’s serve, with Berdych managing to break early.
The Czech closed out the match with relative ease, and with it the day’s play. Although the UAE Royals had already at this point mathematically won the day’s tie, they took a 30-15 lead to close out the day’s play.
Result: Berdych def. Kohlschreiber 6-3