Having progressed to the finals of the International Premier Tennis League, 2014 Champions Indian Aces, ably led by former World No. 4 Mark Philippoussis, looked all set to light the courts on fire, but perhaps a loss in their match last night against the UAE Royals may not have been the best primer for what would otherwise have been a big final.
Taking on the Singapore Slammers’ powerhouse, led by former World No. 1 Carlos Moya, the Aces looked ready for a fight – but one that ultimately did not go as planned.
Here’s how the night went as the Slammers lifted their second trophy:
Men’s Legend Singles:
Two powerhouses took to the court to put their skills on display, but perhaps from the get go, it was Moya who singularly proved just why he was World No. 1. After taking the first break of serve, Moya proceeded to absolutely steamroll Philippoussis, effectively using the IPTL’s Power-point rule at crucial times; he would take a 3-1 lead, with Philippousis clawing his way back against the Spaniard’s power serves.
He would manage to trail 3-4 after an intense few games, but Moya again grabbed the advantage with some lightning speed and took a 5-3 lead as Philippoussis was again put on the back foot.
Just managing to hold serve in what would otherwise have been the decider, the Australian managed to fight back for a 4-5 trail, but Moya cleared it out in the next game, and with it maintained his record of never having lost a single IPTL match.
Carlos Moya bt Mark Philippoussis 6-4
With the experienced Kirsten Flipkens helming the women’s attack here, the Aces could have breathed easy – as did their fans. Kirsten Flipkens took a break of serve in the very first game of the tie, and many, on the basis of her aggression alone, may have given the more experienced Belgian the game based on her attacking tennis.
But the younger Bertens broke back immediately, then held and went up a double break almost instantly for a 3-1 lead as the Aces’ attack faltered significantly.
That form continued until Bertens led Flipkens 5-3, with the Frenchwoman serving for the set – at which point Aces star and Doubles World No. 1 Sania Mirza came on as a substitute – the only time in recent years she has played singles.
The move proved unfruitful for the Indian Aces however, with Bertens closing out the set easily.
Kiki Bertens bt Kirsten Flipkens 6-3
Much was expected of the all-Indian Mixed Doubles combine of World No. 1 Sania Mirza and former top-10 doubles player Rohan Bopanna; both qualified for the Olympic games this year, progressing as far as the bronze medal match before missing out on a prize at Rio 2016.
Today, however, was perhaps not their day. Putting in what would be arguably the weakest performance of the night, Mirza and Bopanna suffered a relentless attack from Grand Slam winner and former doubles World No. 1 Marcelo Melo, paired with the in-form Kiki Bertens.
Together, the pair completely routed the Indian Aces’ Mirza and Bopanna to nearly seal the deal for the Singapore Slammers with two sets still to go.
Kiki Bertens/Marcelo Melo bt Sania Mirza/Rohan Bopanna 6-1
The Men’s Doubles promised to be an interesting game, with two former World No. 1 doubles players – who partnered each other to that title – on either side of the net. Marcelo Melo for the Singapore Slammers and Ivan Dodig for the Indian Aces would prove to be valuable assets in a quick-fire game.
Melo was paired with the aggressive young Australian talent Nick Kyrgios, who had been enthusiastic throughout the game. The 22-year-old won three singles titles on the ATP World Tour this year and did not disappoint in the doubles either, but the pair were faced with some formidable talent – with Dodig pairing Feliciano Lopez on the other side of the net.
But the Australian-Brazilian combine proved hardy and aggressive in today’s match, and continued their team’s undefeated final run, closing out the set with a break of serve.
Kyrgios/Melo bt Lopez/Dodig 6-2
The final set of the night saw a Cyprus vs Spain battle as Marcos Baghdatis helmed the Slammers’ fight against the Aces’ Feliciano Lopez. This contest was not perhaps as one-sided as the others, with Lopez and Baghdatis going neck and neck in a fight that saw the Cypriot take a 5-4 lead and eventually serve out for what was the most evenly-fought tie of the match.
Marcos Baghdatis bt Feliciano Lopez 6-4
OUE Singapore Slammers bt Indian Aces 30-14