After two days of Group A matches, the 2015 Champions Tennis League now moves on to south India for some Group B action. On Wednesday, V Chennai Warriors will host Hyderabad Aces at the SDAT Tennis Stadium in Chennai.
Both the sides are replete with experienced players from the country as well as abroad. While the visiting team is headlined by Grand Slam champions Martina Hingis and Thomas Johansson, the home team too will rely on 2003 Australian Open runner-up Rainer Schüttler as well as former top-10 player Fernando Verdasco.
Here’s a look at how the 5 different matches in the tie are likely to transpire:
Women’s singles: Heather Watson vs Martina Hingis
Former World No. 1 Martina Hingis comes to India after a stellar year on the tour in which she won five Slam titles partnering Indian players Sania Mirza and Leander Paes. The sweet success story that she scripted with the two Indians has undoubtedly doubled her popularity in the country. Moreover, the Swiss Miss is familiar with the conditions and the format of the league, having played for Hyderabad Aces last season too.
All of that gives Hingis a distinct edge in every match she plays. But she cannot be complacent in the singles, for she faces an opponent 12 years younger, who is also a former junior US Open champion and is regarded as a highly intelligent player - just like Hingis herself.
British No. 2 Heather Watson certainly knows how to play on the big stage, and she won a title this year as well. With her smooth, flat strokes and effortless movement, the 23-year-old was two points away from sending eventual champion Serena Williams at this year’s Wimbledon.
The Guernsey girl’s energy and determination might have the final word in this contest of youth against experience.
Legends’ singles: Rainer Schüttler vs Thomas Johansson
Former top-10 players Thomas Johansson and Rainer Schüttler have quite a few similarities. Both of them reached the Australian Open final last decade; the Swede emerged victorious in 2002 while the German succumbed to Andre Agassi in the 2003 summit clash. Both clinched a much-coveted Olympic medal too, and incidentally, even the colour of the medal and the category were also the same for each of them.
Schüttler was the first of the duo to get his hands on the Olympic silver medal in men’s doubles at the 2004 Athens Olympics. Johansson emulated him four years later at the Beijing Games.
Not only that, both the players moved on to coaching after their retirement. While Schüttler is currently mentoring former junior World No. 1 Ricardas Berankis, Johansson is in charge of World No. 44 Borna Coric.
These are two baseliners well acquainted with each other’s games. Schüttler, who likes to take the ball early, holds a slender lead of 2-1 over his Swedish rival and needless to say, it will be exciting to watch them revive their rivalry on the Chennai hardcourts.
Men’s singles: Fernando Verdasco vs Ivo Karlovic
This battle of contrasting styles will light up the SDAT Stadium. It’s the ultimate test of the serve and net-rushing game vs the counterpunching game.
With his imposing 6’11’’ height, the Croatian Karlovic can produce mind-boggling serve speeds, and once even held the record of the fastest serve recorded in men’s tennis at 251 km/h (156 mph).
The 36-year-old, who is just the second player to notch 10,000 aces, is never an easy opponent for anyone. The World No. 23 comes into the Champions Tennis League on the back of a confidence-boosting 2015 season where he won a title and had wins over Novak Djokovic and Stan Wawrinka.
Karlovic's head-to-head record against Fernando Verdasco is a close one, with the Croat holding a slim edge of 4-3. The Madrid native has used his dogged persistence and power from the baseline to try and neutralize Karlovic’s serve-and-volley game, and he has been moderately successful doing so.
However, 2015 hasn’t been quite a fruitful season for the former Australian Open semi-finalist and Karlovic is the one who arrives to this match-up in better form.
Men’s doubles: Verdasco/Vardhan vs Karlovic/Nedunchezhiyan
Both the Indians – Vishnu Vardhan and Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan – are good doubles players, and their 2015 resume attest to that. The lefty Nedunchezhiyan has scooped up five doubles titles in ITF Futures this year apart from the Kolkata Challenger. Former national champion Vardhan on the other hand has four triumphs in ITF Futures doubles and his most recent win happens to be just last week at Gwalior.
That is surely an added fillip for the Chennai team, who can also bank on the shot-making repertoire of Fernando Verdasco, a fine doubles player himself. However, armed with Karlovic’s mammoth serve and Nedunchezhiyan’s big forehand, the Hyderabad team would be difficult to contain in this intriguing clash.
Mixed doubles: Verdasco/Watson vs Karlovic/Hingis
Karlovic’s devastating serve coupled with Hingis’ deft touch and anticipation make the Hyderabad side a potentially dangerous team for all of their rivals. Hingis can wield magic from any part of the court and she is an asset to any doubles team. After the stupendous success she has had on the doubles circuit this year, she should be raring to go.
However, the Swiss-Croat pairing cannot take the Spanish-British duo of Verdasco/Watson lightly. The left-handed Spaniard has captured seven career doubles titles, one of which is the prestigious ATP World Tour Finals crown. His baseline firepower would perfectly complement Watson’s impressive footwork and slices, giving headaches to their opponents.
A clash of styles, firepower and cat-and-mouse skills, the mixed doubles contest may well turn out to be the most thrilling match of this tie.Published 24 Nov 2015, 12:54 IST