The stats advantage: Why the UAE Royals are the favourites to win the IPTL this year
A brand new season of the International Premier Tennis League (IPTL) is around the corner. And this season promises to be bigger and better, with higher stakes and added glitz and glamour.
The number of teams this year is five as compared to four last year, and there will be a Grand Finale following the round robin matches. The extra team has translated to more iconic players being signed up and has added another country as a host nation for this spectacle that gives the viewers a brand-new, thoroughly entertaining format of tennis.
With the inclusion of new players like Rafael Nadal, Kei Nishikori, Agnieszka Radwanska, Ivan Dodig, Leander Paes, Kurumi Nara, Marat Safin, Philip Kohlschreiber, Jarmila Gajdosova, Richard Gasquet, Marcelo Melo, Dustin Brown, Karolina Pliskova, Belinda Bencic, Carlos Moya and a new host nation Japan, the IPTL is all set to ‘break the code’ again.
Every game counts
The format remains mostly unchanged from the previous year barring a few tweaks following the addition of a new team – Japan Warriors. The league standings will be determined by the win-loss percentage of the total number of games won versus games lost, and the two teams with the best win-loss ratios make it to the Finale.
The most prominent tweaks to the format lie in the Shoot-Out and Super Shoot-Out stages. Unlike Season 1, the Shoot-Out and the Super Shoot-Out will not be time-bound. The Shoot Out, a 13-point tie-breaker, will be won by the team that scores the first 7 points. The Super Shoot-Out, a 19-point super tie-breaker, will be clinched by that team that wins the first 10 points. A difference of two points is not required in either of the formats.
Such a format ensures that the teams will take every game seriously. They would have to constantly refine their strategies in picking their players, and repeatedly shuffle their combinations to give themselves the best possible chance of winning.
But given the new format and the playing conditions, does any team hold an edge over the other teams, at least on paper? A closer look at the squad of the UAE Royals, which is partially owned by Indian cricket superstar Virat Kohli, reveals that they are genuine favourites to win the title in the second season of the league.
The UAE Royals in focus
Given that the icon players like Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Serena Williams, Maria Sharapova and Ana Ivanovic are the real crowd pullers, it's no surprise that the organizers would want them to get equal playing team across all the cities. Though there are some new players in the mix like Agnieszka Radwanska and Leander Paes, the team compositions of 2014 remain pretty much intact. But the icon players, the crème-dela-crème, are the ones who have been moved around to bring in a change in dynamics.
This year the UAE Royals have a star-studded team that includes the 17-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer, 2008 French Open champion Ana Ivanovic, 2001 Wimbledon champion Goran Ivanisevic, 2014 US Open champion Marin Cilic, 12-time doubles Grand Slam champion Daniel Nestor, two-time mixed doubles Grand Slam champion Kristina Mladenovic and 2010 Wimbledon finalist Tomas Berdych.
What makes the UAE Royals tick?
The UAE Royals finished as the runners-up in the inaugural season of the IPTL, losing out to the Indian Aces at the very last hurdle. It was a neck-and-neck contest between the two teams, and if it wasn't for some inspired play by the Aces in the final leg, the Royals could well have emerged as the champions.
Here's how the final points tally looked at the end of the season:
|UAE Royals|| |
Past data usually helps predicting future performances and gives some insight into what to expect. The win-loss ratios calculated below (i.e. ratio of games won versus lost) for each team indicates that UAE Royals stood third behind the Indian Aces and the Manila Mavericks.
|Team||Games won||Games lost||Win-loss ratio|
** Japan Warriors are a new addition in IPTL 2015
While the UAE Royals were already a strong team in 2014, what makes them even more lethal this year is the inclusion of the icon players Roger Federer and Ana Ivanovic. Both these stars were part of the Indian Aces last year, helping them to win the title. This year, the Royals collectively have a Grand Slam count of 34.
|Team||Grand Slam count|
Fun fact: The Grand Slam count for the Singapore Slammers is made up mainly by one player – Serena Williams (21 Singles Grand Slams and 15 Doubles Grand Slams).
The UAE Royals have the most number of Grand Slam champions at six followed by Japan Warriors and Indian Aces who have four Grand Slam champions each. The Philippine Mavericks have three Slam champions, as do the Singapore Slammers.
To add to this interesting stat, all the UAE Royals players currently feature or have featured in the top 10 in the world during their illustrious careers. The only other team that can match that stat is the Indian Aces.
The Royals’ unique team dynamic
While records and numbers are usually a good barometer to assess the prowess of a team, they make even more sense when viewed vis-à-vis the IPTL format. The format allows for one substitution per set that can change the dynamic of the whole contest.
The UAE Royals look very formidable as a team as they have players like Roger Federer, Kristina Mladenovic and Daniel Nestor who are capable of playing both singles and doubles. This allows for more combinations in all disciplines of the format. Ivanovic and Mladenovic for women’s singles, Federer, Cilic and Berdych for men’s singles, Federer / Nestor or Cilic / Berdych for men’s doubles and Mladenovic with Nestor or Federer for the mixed doubles are the various options available.
Also, the UAE Royals have the most number of players with booming serves. The field is led by Ivanisevic (10,000+ aces), followed by Federer (9,000+ aces), Cilic, Berdych, Nestor and Mladenovic.
The UAE Royals are undoubtedly a dream team and are the favorites to win this edition of the IPTL.
On a lighter note, it will be intriguing to see how Rafael Nadal, the latest addition among the icon players, copes with the shot clock on court. Nadal is known to take an average of 29-32 seconds in between serves in the ATP matches. It will be fun to see if he chooses to rush through his routine or tailor it to fit into 20 seconds.