UAE Royals, who currently top the table at the International Premier Tennis League, blazed through the Japan Leg of the IPTL. But the tournament has now moved to the Philippines, where they took on home team Philippine Mavericks in the capital, Manila.
(For tickets to the UAE Royals matches, click here).
Rich on talent, both teams looked strong coming into this tie; while Philippine Mavericks had big-serving World No. 1 Serena Williams, UAE Royals had the hard-hitting Ana Ivanovic. There were also the still-agile legends Mark Philippousis and Goran Ivanisevic in the two teams, who promised to set the court on fire.
But ultimlately the firepower of the Mavericks, led by the ever-battling Ms Williams, proved too much for the Royals on the day. Here’s a look at how each of the sets progressed:
Legends’ singles: Mark Philippoussis (Philippine Mavericks) vs Goran Ivanisevic (UAE Royals)
Philippoussis has played a typically fiery game this IPTL, and he’s hit 12 aces so far. His opponent Ivanisevic may have hit only three, but the Croat, who is also older than his opponent, has won every tie he’s played to date in this edition of the IPTL.
Ivanisevic and the Australian have met four times in the past, with the Croat leading 3-1. Tonight, however, it was the ‘Scud’ who took the win, routing Ivanisevic 6-2 as he took the Croat to break point five times, winning two.
Adding to his kitty of aces with three this match, the tall Australian gave the Mavericks a 6-2 lead with this win.
Result: Philippoussis def. Ivanisevic 6-2
Men’s singles: Milos Raonic (Philippine Mavericks) vs Tomas Berdych (UAE Royals)
Milos Raonic is known for his big serves, and that did not bode well for the ‘Berdman’. Although he is ranked 6th in the world, Berdych crashed and burned against the big-serving Nick Kyrgios of the Singapore Slammers in the pair’s last tie.
The Canadian Raonic also leads the pair in their head-to-head record, and he even beat Kei Nishikori in Japan. He brought that fire to the pair’s tie, hitting three aces en route to a confident victory.
The Mavericks thus took a second set in a row to lead 12-6 overall.
Result: Raonic def. Berdych 6-4
Mixed doubles: Huey/Williams (Philippine Mavericks) vs Nestor/Mladenovic (UAE Royals)
The French-Canadian UAE Royals pair have lit up the court of late, and together they have two Grand Slams and plenty of success at other tournaments to their name.
The mere mention of Serena Williams, however, is enough to induce fear in the strongest of opponents. The World No. 1 plays a powerful game few others can match, and she’s won 15 Major doubles titles.
It was never going to be one-sided, and tonight, the two pairs played a tight, well-fought contest. Although Williams/Huey hit one ace to their competitors’ two, they only committed a single double fault, taking their rivals to break point on three occasions.
There was virtually nothing separating the two pairs, until Huey and Williams earned three set points at 6-3 in the tie-breaker. But the Grand Slam-winning pair of Nestor and Mladenovic showed immense fight to save them all, ultimately taking a tense tie-breaker 7-6 .
The win saw the Royals’ deficit reduce to 12-17.
Result: Nestor/Mladenovic def. Williams/Huey 6-5
Women’s singles: Serena Williams (Philippine Mavericks) vs Ana Ivanovic (UAE Royals)
Former World No. 1 vs current World No. 1! This set was the one that everyone had been looking forward to, even if it looked tilted in favour of the powerful Williams, who has been in the form of her life this year. Ivanovic, however, flourishes in the league format, and considering Williams took a hiatus following the US Open, it seemed to be a less daunting job for Ivanovic.
With her legendary powerful serve coming right back tonight, the American World No. 1 gave Ivanovic a bit of a workout across the court. Although she hit only a single ace with Ivanovic hitting a mammoth four, Williams hit nine winners, often punctuating them with blood-curdling screams. And didn’t just take Ivanovic to break point three times – she took each one of those break points.
Playing with consistent speed and power, Williams took a 6-3 victory over Ivanovic. At this point, the Mavericks led the Royals 23 games to 15.
Result: Williams def. Ivanovic 6-3
Men’s doubles: Gasquet/Roger-Vasselin (Philippine Mavericks) vs Berdych/Nestor (UAE Royals)
Each team had a doubles specialist in Roger-Vasselin and Nestor, making this a relatively even encounter. Funnily enough though, the two, today on opposite sides of the net, have seen victory together this year, winning the doubles title at the Cincinnati Masters.
This doubtless gave each team an equal advantage in knowing the other’s game.
The teams hit an identical number of aces and a near-equal number of winners, but the key here was that Gasquet and Roger-Vasselin committed only five unforced errors, while their UAE Royals counterparts committed 10. And therein lay the reason for their loss.
The Philippine Mavericks pair took victory 6-3, and with it the overall tie.
Result: Gasquet/Roger-Vasselin def. Berdych/Nestor 6-3