The UAE Royals team members don’t have good memories from their last outing against the Philippine Mavericks. Leading mid-way through the match at the Dubai leg of the 2015 International Premier Tennis League (IPTL), the Royals collapsed to a 24-26 defeat.
Fast forward to the Singapore leg, and it is now the Royals who have been able to successfully emerge from their lean period, posting two victories on the trot. In contrast, the Mavericks were hammered 15-29 by the bottom-placed Japan Warriors in their first Singapore match on Friday.
The Royals would be eager to bank on this and would be hoping to turn the tables when the two sides clash in the Singapore Indoor Stadium on Saturday. This can very well be the UAE franchise’s final IPTL2 match, and they would want to end the season on a high.
That calls for double motivation for all the members of the Dubai team. Can the Mavericks still threaten them? Let us have a look:
Women’s singles: Kristina Mladenovic vs Ajla Tomljanovic (probable)
Kristina Mladenovic coming back to form in the latter stages of the IPTL2 is welcome news for the UAE Royals. Since Ana Ivanovic’s commitment got over, the sole responsibility for singles lay on Mladenovic’s young shoulders. And even though the junior French Open champion did show flashes of brilliance in nearly every outing, she had not been able to string together all the parts of her game for a win.
That is why the 22-year-old and her team must have definitely felt relieved to see the two-time mixed doubles Major winner upending her higher-ranked rival, Karolina Pliskova, in the Royals’ tie against the Singapore Slammers on Friday.
She is thus arriving into this contest with the perfect momentum and would be eager to make her big game do most of the talking against the equally talented Ajla Tomljanovic. Even though the Australian-Croatian does hold an edge over the Frenchwoman in their career meetings, it was Mladenovic who had the last laugh in Dubai, as she outclassed the Mavericks player 6-2.
There’s no doubt that the UAE Royals ace would be hoping for an encore of that performance.
Men’s singles: Marin Cilic vs Ivo Karlovic (probable)
This is a battle of two compatriots and Davis Cup teammates, each armed with a big serve. The 6’11’’ Karlovic has the bigger serve though and is a holder of a staggering 10,000+ aces. He is a late entrant to the IPTL but accounted for Roger Federer in the Royals’ last showdown with the Mavericks.
With Federer’s IPTL2 obligations now over, it is Cilic now who will take the court against his countryman. The 2014 US Open winner holds a 2-1 edge over Karlovic and has a better all-round game and movement than the giant Croat.
After struggling initially, the World No. 13 did finally find his groove against the Japan Warriors in the Royals’ last home match, as he carried his team to victory in both the singles and doubles. That would sound warning bells for Karlovic!
Legends’ singles: Goran Ivanisevic vs James Blake (probable)
Goran Ivanisevic has scores to settle in this set; he had succumbed to James Blake in their last clash even after having a bright start. Blake, who was making his IPTL debut, appeared to have no problems at all in adapting to the fast and quirky format and played a cleaner game to get the better of the former Wimbledon champion.
However, the American is coming to this contest after losing the last set he played for the Mavericks. The 3-6 defeat to the two-time Major winner Marat Safin of the Japan Warriors might not be the best preparation mentally for Blake.
Having got another opportunity to face his younger rival, Ivanisevic might be eager to make amends this time. If he can summon his famous serve, which has been a bit off at this IPTL, and can also keep his errors at bay, there’s no reason why the Royals player cannot get the better of Blake.
Men’s doubles: Cilic/Nestor vs Roger-Vasselin/Huey (probable)
Marin Cilic came to the party in his last assignment at Dubai as he sizzled in both singles and doubles. The Croatian-Canadian duo of Cilic and Daniel Nestor would be keen to recreate that same magic at Singapore as well.
But this would be an uphill task for them. Edouard Roger-Vasselin and Treat Huey are both highly skilled in doubles and have been the most reliable team for the Mavericks. Even in their last outing at Singapore on Friday, Roger-Vasselin and Huey did not disappoint. They held their nerves well to claim a victory in a shootout against the Japan Warriors – the only set that went in favour of the Mavericks.
The French-Philippine pair had also prevailed over the Royals in Dubai. Without a doubt, the Mavericks are the favourites in this set, but Cilic/Nestor can certainly make things interesting.
Mixed doubles: Nestor/Mladenovic vs Roger-Vasselin/Gajdosova (probable)
With Daniel Nestor being asked to rest, it was Cilic who had to team up with Kristina Mladenovic in the mixed doubles set in the Dubai leg. And that did not turn out to be a very smart decision as the 2014 runners-up went down in a shootout to the pair of Jarmila Gajdosova and Roger-Vasselin.
The Australian-French combine, however, could not follow up their big win as they slumped to a one-sided 2-6 defeat during their tie against the Japan Warriors on Friday. That might present a window of opportunity to Mladenovic and Nestor, who look very likely to be fielded this time.
Mladenovic-Nestor are the team with a bigger history of success and they would not want to let their team down in what could be the Royals’ last IPTL match of 2015.
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.