The UAE Royals arrive at the final leg of the 2015 International Premier Tennis League (IPTL) inSingapore with a lot more confidence than they did their home leg. They finally clicked as a team in their last match at Dubai and snapped their four-match losing streak to register a win against the Japan Warriors.
But they have a Herculean task on Friday as they face the energetic and lethal team of the Singapore Slammers at the Singapore Indoor Stadium. Armed with a bunch of talented youngsters, the Slammers have set their eyes upon the big prize as they upended even the table toppers Indian Aces in their last match.
To make things even worse for the Dubai team, the hosts, who beat the Royals just a couple of days back, will be emboldened by the arrival of French Open champion Stan Wawrinka.
Can the Royals still muster enough courage to topple the home team? We analyze:
Women’s singles: Kristina Mladenovic vs Karolina Pliskova (probable)
It was World No. 11 Karolina Pliskova who emerged the victor when the Czech and her friend Kristina Mladenovic clashed at the Dubai leg of the IPTL. But Pliskova did not have it easy as her 29th ranked French opponent was the initial aggressor and even led by an early break.
The young Czech showed tremendous tenacity and resilience to fight back from there and secured the set in a close shootout. To add to that, the Singapore Slammers player is arriving in this match with a lot of confidence after putting up an incredible performance in mixed doubles to upset the favoured Indian Aces duo of Sania Mirza and Rohan Bopanna.
It is logical to expect her to come through in this set too, although Mladenovc, like she showed at Dubai, can certainly make it extremely competitive.
Legends’ singles: Goran Ivanisevic vs Carlos Moya (probable)
Former Wimbledon champion Goran Ivanisevic would not be proud of his performances in his last four outings during the Delhi and Dubai legs. He has been winless since the Royals’ first match in India and would undoubtedly be under a lot of pressure to deliver.
One of his conquerors happens to be his next opponent – Carlos Moya of the Singapore Slammers, who reigned supreme with a 6-4 scoreline. Ivanisevic heads two of the IPTL Players’ Leaderboards – in the ‘Double Faults’ and ‘Unforced Errors’ categories. That itself underlines how error-ridden the former World No. 2 has been.
The Croat will have to elevate his game a lot and cut down on his errors if he aspires to turn around his fortunes this time.
Men’s doubles: Federer/Cilic vs Wawrinka/Melo (probable)
It would be interesting to see the 2008 Olympic men’s doubles gold medal-winning pair of Roger Federer and Stan Wawrinka crossing swords in the men’s doubles set. As far as Federer is concerned, he would be eager to obliterate the memories of the last men’s doubles set he played alongside Marin Cilic on Tuesday. The Royals duo was cruising comfortably with a break advantage from where they collapsed to an inexplicable loss.
Even though his compatriot Wawrinka might be rusty in his maiden IPTL men’s doubles set, the Swiss-Croatian duo cannot afford to be complacent. The World No. 4 is no slouch in doubles; he reached three quarter-finals this season. Along with the World No. 1 Marcelo Melo, he would make for quite a pair to deal with.
Mixed doubles: Nestor/Mladenovic vs Brown/Pliskova (probable)
In the battle between multiple Grand Slam champions and an unheralded duo, it is the Singapore team of Karolina Pliskova and Dustin Brown who are coming with a winning momentum. The German-Czech combine stole the show against Mirza and Bopanna in their most recent set through their big serves and ferocious groundstrokes.
It was the exact opposite for their more accomplished opponents – Daniel Nestor and Kristina Mladenovic – in their last assignment against the Japan Warriors. The French-Canadian pair was outclassed by Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Kirsten Flipkens who claimed the victory in a tie-break.
It is definitely not the ideal scenario for the Royals duo. They haven’t been able to display their usual sharpness at the crunch moments and have slumped to a total of four defeats. Nestor and Mladenovic have to ensure that they keep their errors at bay to have any chance of success against such a dangerous giant-killing pair.
Men’s singles: Roger Federer vs Stan Wawrinka (probable)
This would be the highlight of the day. The two Swiss stars would look to regale the crowd with their superb single-handed backhands and stupendous movement on the court.They have met four times this year, with their most recent showdown being in November at the World Tour Finals semi-finals where the elder Swiss achieved victory in straight sets. Federer holds a 3-1 edge this year but Wawrinka won a very important clash at the French Open. If his deadly backhand is working, he can heap misery on anyone on a given day.
Having said that, this is indoors and one certainly cannot rule out Federer’s chances, given the staggering record he has indoors. After having failed to win any of his six sets so far at the 2015 IPTL, this may finally be the 17-time Major winner’s time to shine.
Note: The singles and doubles match-ups are as per our assumptions for the most obvious player combinations. They are subject to change if one or more of the players are unavailable from either team, or if the team managements decide to change the combinations based on current form.