This is a battle of two teams who have had contrasting fortunes, as Group B table toppers Nagpur Orangers meet the bottom-placed V Chennai Warriors at home in the Nagpur District Hard Court Tennis Association grounds on Thursday.
While Nagpur have won both their matches so far at the 2015 Champions Tennis League (CTL), Chennai are still searching desperately for their maiden victory.Their last encounter had a dramatic finish in which the Warriors' Fernando Verdasco put in some last-minute heroics but they went in vain as the visitors took the 24-23 win.
Will this leg be as engrossing as the previous one? We try to find out:
Women’s singles: Jelena Jankovic vs Heather Watson
Former World No. 1 Jelena Jankovic and British No. 2 Heather Watson have met just once over the course of their professional career. That was at the Wuhan Open this year, where the Serb prevailed in a thrilling three-setter.
It was no surprise that when these two met at the CTL, their set went to the tie-break. It was the more experienced Jankovic who made the early breakthrough, but the 55th ranked Watson refused to buckle under pressure. She gave a great testimony of her courage and fighting spirit and enforced the tie-break.
Jankovic should be the favourite to win yet again but if Watson can come up with an encore of her spirited show, things might get difficult for the Serb.
Legends’ singles: Alex Corretja vs Rainer Schuttler
It was the former two-time French Open runner-up Alex Corretja who came through in a tie-break over the Warriors’ Rainer Schuttler – a former Australian Open finalist – in their away tie. The Spaniard and the German, who are tied at 1-1 in their head-to-head career meetings, were locked in a fierce battle, with neither giving the other an inch on the court.
Because Nagpur is coming into this match with a winning momentum and also due to the fact that Corretja had won their last CTL set, ideally this is an advantageous situation for the hosts. However, Corretja doesn’t have a perfect record at the 2015 CTL and he succumbed to former Australian Open winner Thomas Johansson in only his very last outing.
Could that present Chennai a ray of hope to turn things around?
Men’s singles: Feliciano Lopez vs Fernando Verdasco
This turned out to be the contest of the day when the two Spaniards – Feliciano Lopez and Fernando Verdasco – squared off against each other in Chennai. The two Davis Cup teammates, who have known each other since their junior days, put up a swashbuckling display of their respective weapons as the 17th ranked Lopez just about managed to edge past his lower-ranked opponent in a super tie-break.
Can they stage another absorbing duel? Their head-to-head record suggests that these two southpaws with contrasting playing styles always tend to push each other; they are tied at 4 wins apiece. On paper, Nagpur’s Lopez should be a slight favourite because of how he has fared throughout the season. But never count Fernando Verdasco and his tenacity out!
Throughout his 14 years of professional career, he has given ample examples of his resilience, and Lopez will be put under severe test in this one too.
Men’s doubles: Lopez/Sharan vs Verdasco/Vardhan
With their vast experience in doubles, Feliciano Lopez and Divij Sharan have clicked instantly as a pair. Sharan, a former World No. 63, has picked up a couple of Challenger doubles titles in 2015 while Lopez too has had decent success as he reached the Valencia Open summit clash in October.
Both brought their immaculate form to the CTL and have done admirably well. Their best performance so far has been their set against the Hyderabad Aces, where they returned the devastating serve of Ivo Karlovic and broke him en route to the men’s doubles victory.
Verdasco and Vishnu Vardhan have their task cut out if they want to upstage the Nagpur pair who are coming in after such a confidence-boosting win. Even though they are excellent doubles players themselves, they would find it hard to stop the rampaging Orangers.
Mixed doubles: Lopez/Jankovic vs Verdasco/Watson
This set turned out just as expected, with Feliciano Lopez and Jelena Jankovic prevailing over the pair of Fernando Verdasco and Heather Watson 5-3 in the Chennai leg. Lopez’s deft volleys perfectly complement the Serb’s groundstrokes, and this team has all the prerequisites for success - Jankovic is a mixed doubles Slam champion, after all.
On the other hand, while Verdasco is a former World No. 8 doubles player, his partner Heather Watson does not have much to show for her doubles skills. She was the one who cracked first in their last match and from thereon, it was a tough situation to come back from.It is hard to bet against the same outcome repeating here as well.