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Mumbai Tennis Masters vs Punjab Marshalls preview: CTL all set to start on a high note

ANALYST
Modified 23 Nov 2015, 09:38 IST
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Reigning US Open champion Flavia Pennetta will be one of the biggest draws at this year’s Champions Tennis League

The first day of the 2015 edition of the Champions Tennis League will see the Mumbai Tennis Masters host the Punjab Marshalls. After the highly successful inaugural season in 2014, the second season of the tournament is about to start with a bang, and set off another tennis wave among the country’s fans.

Both the teams in action on the first day boast significant talent from within the country as well as from abroad. The Mumbai side has as many as two Grand Slam winners; one of them a very recent champion.

Here’s a look at how the 5 different matches in the tie are likely to unfold:

Women’s singles: Flavia Pennetta vs Elina Svitolina

US Open winner Flavia Pennetta, who will be retiring at the end of this season, is perhaps the biggest star on either team. The Italian, who was not even in the top 20 before the New York tournament started, steamrolled through her opponents before defeating countrywoman Roberta Vinci in the final to record her maiden Major triumph.

The teams’ line-ups will mean Pennetta will face off against the highest-ranked Ukrainian player on the WTA circuit, the much-younger Elina Svitolina. At No. 19, the 21-year-old has been touted for great things since a long time, and she will be looking to put in a strong performance at the CTL and build momentum for her 2016 season.  

While Pennetta is the more solid baseliner, Svitolina is quicker and uses her forehand as a big weapon. Youth could very well trump experience in this particular match-up.

Legends’ singles: Richard Krajicek vs Greg Rusedski

One of the most successful Dutch tennis players of all time, Richard Krajicek is part of the Mumbai squad as well. Krajicek is best remembered for his monumental victory over Pete Sampras at the 1996 Wimbledon tournament, which he went on to win for his only Grand Slam title.

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At his height, Krajicek achieved a career-highest ranking of World No. 4 in the singles, and has 17 ATP titles to his name. He will likely face off against Great Britain’s Greg Rusedski, who also reached a career-highest World No. 4 ranking.

Rusedski was among the top two British players in the world for a long time, establishing and maintaining a healthy rivalry with countryman Tim Henman in the late 90s and early 2000s. Armed with a huge serve, Rusedski reached the US Open final in 1997 and was a consistent threat on fast courts.

A Krajicek vs Rusedski face-off at this point of time will bring back memories of 90s-style serve-and-volley tennis, and will see bullet serves and groundstrokes from both sides of the net. Krajicek was always the more well-rounded player though, and that should hold him in good stead in their legends’ encounter at the CTL.

Men’s singles: Marcos Baghdatis vs Santiago Giraldo

Baghdatis is no stranger to the tennis fan, having charmed the entire sporting world during the 2006 Australian Open, where he reached the final. Though he lost that match to Roger Federer, he firmly established himself among the ranks of dangerous top-level opponents on the ATP tour with that run.

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Baghdatis was the one of the chief architects of Pune Marathas’ title win in the first season of the CTL, notching up several clutch victories to propel his team forward.  Though he’s moved to the Punjab Marshalls this year, he will continue to be a major threat in the tournament.

Mumbai’s male singles player Santiago Giraldo has put together a nice little career for himself. Although he has never won an ATP-level tournament, he has reached a career-high ranking of No. 28 and is always a tough out for any opponent with his steady baseline game.

That said, Baghdatis has considerably more firepower than his counterpart in this first tie, and will be the heavy favourite to come away the winner.

Men’s doubles: Baghdatis/Myneni vs Giraldo/Balaji

Neither team lacks in terms of Indian talent. Punjab Marshalls boasts the big serving of Saketh Myneni, who is the second-highest ranked Indian men’s singles player behind Yuki Bhambri. He hit his career-highest ATP doubles ranking of 118 this month, and has had a strong 2015 season. 

His counterpart at in the Mumbai team is Sriram Balaji, who may not have had as much success as Myneni in recent years, but has still done fairly well. He’s had markedly more success at the doubles this year, winning at India F2, F9 and F10 with Vishnu Vardhan and also triumphing at China F10 (with Zhe Li).

With Myneni partnering Baghdatis and Balaji combining with Giraldo, the two teams will be fairly evenly matched. But the serve of Myneni might well be the biggest difference-maker as the Punjab team try to overpower the home players.

Mixed doubles: Giraldo/Pennetta vs Baghdatis/Svitolina

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Pennetta possesses ample doubles experience, having won the 2011 women’s doubles title at the Australian Open and reaching two finals at the US Open. That experience, couple with her nifty volleying skills, will be a huge asset for the Mumbai team in the mixed doubles match-up.

Baghdatis is no slouch in doubles either, but Svitolina’s volleys will really be put to the test against the counterpunching skills of Giraldo and Pennetta.

Published 23 Nov 2015, 09:25 IST
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