The UAE Royals have their task cut out as they have to bounce back quickly after their first defeat of the 2015 International Premier Tennis League (IPTL). And they have less than 24 hours to do so as they meet the defending champions Indian Aces at the Mall Of Asia Arena in Manila on Monday.
(For tickets to the UAE Royals matches, click here).
To compound matters even further for the 2014 runners-up, the Aces will be spearheaded by the 14-time Slam champion Rafael Nadal, who will be making his IPTL debut.
This is a challenging scenario for the Royals. They do have the required ammunition in their team in the form of Tomas Berdych and Ana Ivanovic, but will they be able to block out Sunday’s 18-29 hammering by the Philippine Mavericks and fully re-focus?
We try to find out:
Women’s singles: Ana Ivanovic vs Samantha Stosur (probable)
In the absence of the WTA Finals champion Agnieszka Radwanska, former US Open champion Samantha Stosur has been donning the shoes for the defending champions in women’s singles. The Aussie, however, has not had the best of starts to her IPTL campaign as she had gone down in both her sets so far – against Maria Sharapova and Karolina Pliskova.
That is probably a welcome prospect for the 2008 French Open champion Ana Ivanovic, who would be keen to obliterate the memories of her 3-6 loss to World No. 1 Serena Williams on Sunday. The Serb, who has been charming her fans since the first season of IPTL, looked nervous and could not produce her best against Serena.
But that probably had more to do with the ruthlessness and determination of the 21-time Major winner, who looked to be hitting the ball with supreme confidence.
The former numero uno player Ivanovic needs to be cautious in her set against Stosur. The Aussie’s top-spin groundstrokes have bothered her in the past as she leads Ivanovic by a slim margin – 4-3. Ivanovic’s forehands need to find the mark early and she needs to keep her errors in check for the Royals to find success in this set.
Men’s singles: Tomas Berdych vs Rafael Nadal (probable)
After a 4-6 loss at the hands of the giant server Milos Raonic today, the last man Tomas Berdych would have wanted to see across the net is Rafael Nadal. The former World No. 1 has a staggering 19 wins out of 23 meetings over the sixth-ranked Czech.
The UAE Royals player Berdych often has major trouble in countering players with superb defensive skills. and Nadal is definitely one of those.
With Rafa making his eagerly-awaited debut on Monday, the crowd support will likely be partial towards the beloved Spaniard, and that would probably be even more demoralizing for the 2010 Wimbledon runner-up.
Having said that, the Czech No. 1 did get the better of the Spaniard at the Australian Open this year, and he can take inspiration from it. Also, it will be interesting to see if Nadal can adapt his game to the innovative shot-clock in his very first IPTL match; that will probably be more challenging for the Spaniard than Berdych’s game!
Legends’ singles: Goran Ivanisevic vs Fabrice Santoro (probable)
If Goran Ivanisevic can come up with earth-shattering service bombs, then Fabrice Santoro knows how to defuse those bombs! This is a mouthwatering match-up between two legends with absolutely different playing styles, who are equally capable of holding tennis fans’ attention.
The Aces will be heartened to know that the 2001 Wimbledon winner has not been able to unleash his devastating weapons with precision so far. The Croat lies at No. 12 on the Aces Leaderboard with a paltry five aces in three sets so far.
Is it Advantage Santoro? Probably so, as the multiple doubles Major champion from France would be looking to tackle his Croatian opponent with his array of trick shots and his guile. To add to that, he also has the advantage of beating Ivanisevic in their last two career meetings.
Men’s doubles: Nestor/Berdych vs Bopanna/Dodig (probable)
The absence of a second regular doubles player in the Royals team might come to haunt the Dubai franchise as they will be up against the duo of Rohan Bopanna and Ivan Dodig, each of whom are seasoned doubles pros. The Royals will be represented by the legendary Daniel Nestor and he will be supported by Tomas Berdych.
Having lost their last set 3-6 to the French pair of Richard Gasquet and Edouard Roger-Vasselin of the Mavericks, the Royals combine is not coming into this match with the right momentum.
On the other hand, Bopanna and Dodig produced major sparks for their team in their last outing against the Singapore Slammers. Not only did Dodig play his part in the doubles win, but his brilliant stroke-play even subdued the explosive power of Nick Kyrgios.
That earned Dodig the MVP moniker from his teammate Gael Monfils, who looked thoroughly impressed with the Croat. With his confidence so high, Dodig would surely like to continue his winning run for his side.
Mixed doubles: Nestor/Mladenovic vs Bopanna/Mirza (probable)
This one is hard to pick; it has the potential to be the most exciting set of the day. World No. 1 women’s doubles player Sania Mirza and her compatriot Rohan Bopanna have been the lucky charm for their team. With Sania’s fiery forehands and Bopanna’s mammoth serves, the combination has looked very effective so far.
However, they are up against a two-time Slam winning pair of Daniel Nestor and Kristina Mladenovic. The Franco-Canadian duo showed why they are regarded so highly when they came back to clinch a tense, thrilling set against the Mavericks in a tie-break on Sunday.
However, Mladenovic needs to be wary of her slow starts, as that undesirable trait of her game can backfire. This set has all the ingredients of going all the way to the tie-break, and the duo that keeps their composure intact, will take it.
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.Published 07 Dec 2015, 09:48 IST