The highlight of this tie was reserved for the end of the match; in a second ‘Big Four’ meeting, Roger Federer would take on Andy Murray as the UAE Royals took on the Singapore Slammers. Federer and Murray have fluctuated between their rankings for a large part of the year, with Murray finally settling on No. 2 and Federer at No. 3.
The UAE Royals came into their home leg on the back of a loss to the Indian Aces in New Delhi, after which they were closely edged out by the Philippine Mavericks 24-26.
Although the Royals appeared to be the stronger side on paper, the Slammers came out firing on all cylinders, and through their intensity managed to come back and win a couple of close sets which ultimately decided the fate of the tie.
(For tickets to UAE Royals matches, click here).
Here’s how each of the sets unfolded:
Legends’ singles: Goran Ivanisevic (UAE Royals) vs Carlos Moya (Singapore Slammers)
Former Wimbledon champion Ivanisevic had emerged the victor in both the pair’s previous ties in Kobe and Manila, and with the added home advantage, the Royals likely considered themselves in a winning position.
But although Ivanisevic displayed his prodigious skill, and statistically outhit his competitor with 10 winners to Moya’s four, the Spaniard was much more consistent off the ground.
Moya took the first set 6-4, taking the lead for the Singapore Slammers.
Result: Moya def Ivanisevic 6-4
Women’s singles: Kristina Mladenovic (UAE Royals) vs Karolina Pliskova (Singapore Slammers)
The pair have faced each other twice before, with each taking a win. Pliskova is a powerhouse, and currently at 11th in the singles rankings is a force to be reckoned with. Meanwhile Mladenovic has won Grand Slams, but both of those are in the doubles.
The odds were on Pliskova to win, and she did not disappoint. But her French rival put up a fight, striking 14 winners to Pliskova’s 11, and even outperformed her in bits.
She also committed more unforced errors than her rival, however. The match, tied at 5-5, would eventually go to a tiebreak, with Pliskova winning it 7-3 and with it the set, 6-5.
The Slammers’ women’s singles win meant they would lead the UAE Royals 12-9 at this point.
Result: Pliskova def. Mladenovic 6-5
Mixed doubles: Nestor/Mladenovic (UAE Royals) vs Kyrgios/Bencic (Singapore Slammers)
Tried-and-tested doubles pair Daniel Nestor and Kristina Mladenovic, who together have won multiple Grand Slams, returned to partner each other after a failed experiment by the Royals that saw the Frenchwoman paired instead with Marin Cilic in the UAE Royals’ previous tie.
They took on the pair of Andy Murray and Belinda Bencic, both of whom are known for their proficiency in singles. But Murray, making his IPTL debut today, was quickly substituted for the more experienced (in terms of IPTL) Nick Kyrgios.
Kyrgios has been in form lately, showing off his skill and quick reflexes across the court, and Bencic has shown her own tenacity all through the tournament. Expectedly though, the more experienced Royals pair hit 12 winners to their opponents’ 3, cruising to a 25-minute 6-3 victory – the Royals’ first win of the tie.
The victory equalised the teams at 15 games apiece.
Result: Nestor/Mladenovic def. Kyrgios/Bencic 6-3
Men’s Doubles: Federer/Cilic (UAE Royals) vs Melo/Kyrgios (sub. Murray) (Singapore Slammers)
With their doubles expert Daniel Nestor already having played (and won) the mixed doubles tie, the UAE Royals rested him in favour of Marin Cilic in the men’s doubles. Marcelo Melo is the men’s doubles World No. 1, and with teammate Nick Kyrgios has won two of the three sets the pair have played.
Kyrgios did in fact start off in this tie, but was substituted at the fag end of the set by Andy Murray.
The Royals’ pair had lost all of their doubles ties coming in, and lacked the momentum the Singapore pair had. But Federer and Cilic put up a clinical performance against the Slammers early on, serving for the set at 5-4.
That was the moment when Murray replaced Kyrgios, and the move paid immediate dividends. They’d eventually go to a tiebreak after leveling at 5 games apiece, with the Scottish-Brazilian Singapore team winning it 7-2.
The Slammers won the set 6-5, and led the UAE Royals 21-20.
Result: Murray/Melo def. Federer/Cilic 6-5
Men’s singles: Roger Federer (UAE Royals) vs Andy Murray (Singapore Slammers)
This was easily the evening’s most awaited match. Making his IPTL 2015 debut for the Singapore Slammers, Murray had already had a go on the court in the doubles sets and put in fair performances. Federer, meanwhile, had lost every set he’d played in the IPTL up to this point, although his singles sets were all closely contested.
More familiar with this format, it was expected that the World No. 3 Federer would triumph over current No. 2 Murray, but that was not the case. Uncharacteristically, Federer committed 15 unforced errors as he struggled to hold serve against an intense Murray, who won 73% of his first serves.
The Scot beat his Big 4 rival Federer 6-4, thereby clinching victory for the Singapore Slammers, who beat the UAE Royals 27 games to 24 on the Royals’ home turf.
Result: Murray def. Federer 6-4
Final Result: Singapore Slammers beat UAE Royals 27-24