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IND Aces send MNL Mavericks packing; UAE Royals top standings after day 2

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If the players had been apprehensive about the format, it certainly didn’t show on the 2nd day of the International Premiere Tennis League.

The night delivered on the promise of fast-paced and exciting tennis with a total of two match-ups ending in tiebreak shoot-outs, eight “happiness power points” played at critical moments of the night, and a brilliant substitution played over at mixed doubles.

The UAE Royals were up against the Singapore Slammers, while home team Manila Mavericks went head-to-head with the Indian Aces.

Day 2 / Match 1
UAE Royals vs. Singapore Slammers

Men’s Singles started off the day with world no. 7 Tomas Berdych going up against current US Open Champion and current world no. 9 Marin Cilic.

The set was intense from the get-go and the two showed their array of weapons, with Cilic in particular effectively utilizing the drop shot a number of times during the set.

Cilic raced to go up 2-0 before Berdych broke the Cilic serve in the third game. Long rallies and more drop shots by Cilic and the match evened out up until the ninth game.

Berdych tried to hold serve but at the Cilic set point, the drop shot proved again to be a useful weapon for the US Open Champion.

Match 1 / Set 1 / Men’s Singles
6-4 in favor of Marin Cilic over Tomas Berdych

The opening match-up was certainly a good warm-up for Berdych and Cilic as they proceeded to join their respective men’s doubles teams. It was Berdych with Australian youngster Nick Kyrgios and Cilic paired with multiple doubles Grand Slam winner Nenad Zimonjic.

The duos had great chemistry on court with each pair holding serve and keeping it close throughout the set. At 4-5 in favor of Cilic/Zimonjic, Berdych hit Cilic in the body with a forehand return. The ball tumbled back into court and was a point counted in favor of Berdych/Kyrgios.

At level 5-5, the set then proceeded to the first tiebreak shoot-out of the night. The Singapore Slammers quickly went up 4-0 on the booming Kyrgios serve; Cilic countered with an ace of his own and set the pace to catch-up with the Slammers.

The UAE Royals clawed their way to 5-5 in the tiebreak only to be finished off by another Kyrgios ace at the end of the 5-minute running time. The young Aussie celebrated his doubles performance by emphatically falling to the ground at center court.

Match 1 / Set 2 / Men’s Doubles
6-5(6-5) in favor of Berdych/Kyrgios over Cilic/Zimonjic 

Women’s Singles followed the men’s action with Kristina Mladenovic going up against Daniela Hantuchova. The hard-hitting Mladenovic established her presence on court early on going up 2-0 before being broken by Hantuchova in the third game.

It was all “Kiki” Mladenovic from there, however, as she raced to 6 to close out the set. The Mladenovic win put the UAE Royals ahead 2-1 in sets played.

Match 1 / Set 3 / Women’s Singles
6-1 in favor of Kristina Mladenovic over Daniela Hantuchova

In the second doubles match-up of the night, Mladenovic took to court with Nenad Zimonjic, while Hantuchova paired with Bruno Soares.

Zimonjic/Mladenovic consolidated an early break at 3-1 before Soares/Hantuchova caught up and made it 3-3.

It was neck and neck until the next pair of service games and at an even 4-4, the Slammers called for a timeout to substitute legend Bruno Soares for the big-serving Nick Kyrgios.

The Kyrgios substitution delighted the crowd and caught the Royals by surprise. Mladenovic, who was set to return the serve of Kyrgios was slow to position herself, mouthing on court “I’m a little scared” at the Australian’s thunderous serve. Kyrgios fired two aces in a brilliant service game and put the Slammers up 5-4 before Zimonjic/Mladenovic caught back up at 5-5 and sent the set into tiebreak.

It was neck and neck again until the Slammers pulled away in the eighth point of the shoot-out. Kyrgios/Hantuchova scored three more times to consolidate the lead and take the set.

Match 1 / Set 4 / Mixed Doubles
6-5 (7-4) Soares/Hantuchova (sub. Kyrgios) over Zimonjic/Mladenovic

For the last set of the series, it was a re-match of the 2001 Wimbledon Championship between Croatian Goran Ivanisevic and Australian Pat Rafter.

It was a close match between the two with each man holding serve up til the tenth game. At 5-5, a shoot-out proceeded where the pair showcased the array of shots in their arsenal. Rafter was superb at the net with his serve-and-volley style but it was the powerful Croatian who replicated his 2001 win and dominated the shoot-out to make it 3 sets to 2 in favor of the UAE Royals.

Match 1 / Set 5 / Past Champions Singles
6-5 (3-9) Goran Ivanisevic over Pat Rafter

The UAE Royals team came away with 28 points over the Singapore Slammers’ 22. It was the second consecutive victory of the Royals in Manila.

Match 1 Result
UAE Royals def. Singapore Slammers


Day 2 / Match 2
Manila Mavericks vs. Indian Aces

Home team Manila Mavericks started off their match-up with the Aces by fielding in legend Carlos Moya against fellow legend Fabrice Santoro.

Santoro built a comfortable lead early on racing to 4-1 against Moya. Moya tried to get back into the match but injured himself in the process. The Spaniard called for a medical timeout in the fifth game and was unable to return to court.

The resting Daniel Nestor was called up to replace Moya, but on such short notice, the doubles great Nestor was unprepared for the singles match-up with Santoro. Santoro made shorter work of Nestor to close out the match.

Match 2 / Set 1 / Past Champions Singles
6-1 in favor of Fabrice Santoro over Carlos Moya (sub. Daniel Nestor)

For the second set of the second match, Frenchmen and compatriots Tsonga and Monfils were on opposing sides of the net. Tsonga was with Mavericks’ player-coach Huey, while Monfils was with Rohan Bopanna.

From the get-go the high-flying Monfils was eager to entertain the crowd. On first point he readily chased after the Tsonga serve off-court almost hitting the barricade in the process.

Monfils would later show his dedication to ball-chasing in the set but was less lucky along with partner Bopanna in successfully returning the barrage of Mavericks shots.

Huey/Tsonga had struggled in yesterday’s doubles match-up, but there was no hint of that against Bopanna/Monfils. The Manila Mavericks pair each shared in fiercely finishing points at the net and thoroughly outplayed the Indian Aces.

It was a resounding win over Bopanna/Monfils.

Match 2 / Set 2/ Men’s Doubles
6-0 in favor of Huey/Tsonga over Bopanna/Monfils

Men’s Singles was third in the order of play and it was Maverick Andy Murray against Ace Gael Monfils.

Muray and Monfils either held or broke serve evenly until the eighth game of the set. At 4-4 with Murray up by 40-30, Monfils feigned injury only to quickly serve underhand. His ploy failed on the point, however, but he had enough momentum and confidence to win the game and break Murray on the next serve. Monfils celebrated his win over the Maverick by screaming “Allez!” to the home crowd.

Match 2/ Set 3/ Men’s Singles
6-4 in favor of Gael Monfils over Andy Murray

Mixed doubles between the Manila Mavericks and the Indian Aces featured the combination of Andy Murray with Maria Sharapoova versus Rohan Bopanna and Sania Mirza.

Bopanna/Mirza have played together in the doubles circuit on the tour and it certainly showed against the accomplished, but singles specialists, Murray/Sharapova. The Aces pair held serve and continuously broke the Mavericks and it was only in the sixth game when the home team were able to win a consolation game. Murray rejoiced at the relief of being spared of the dreaded “bagel.”

Bopanna/Mirza subsequently closed the next game and the set in fashion at 40-0.

Match 2 / Set 4 / Mixed Doubles
6-1 in favor of Bopanna/Mirza over Murray/Sharapova

It was Maria Sharapova’s last night in Manila and the Mavericks reserved the headlining women’s singles match-up with Ana Ivanovic for last. The two have met on a number of occasions throughout their careers and the familiarity added to the buzz of the crowd going into the set.

Ivanovic pulled away early to make it 4-1 but Sharapova fought back the Ivanovic serve to make it 4-2.

In the sixth and seventh game both players ran into a bit of trouble on the serve, sharing two double faults apiece. Ivanovic re-asserted herself in the eighth game and called the “happiness power point” when she was down 30-40.

The risk paid off as Ivanovic trounced Sharapova in her last home match.

Match 2 / Set 5 / Women’s Singles
6-3 in favor of Ana Ivanovic over Maria Sharapova

The Manila Mavericks lost on home soil for the second consecutive night, while the Indian Aces meanwhile extended their winning streak. It was 4-1 in sets and 24-15 on the point system, in favor of the Indian Aces.

Match 2 Result
Indian Aces def. Manila Mavericks


Team Standings after the 2nd Day of the IPTL

TEAM NAMEGames WonGames LostPoints Tally
1Musafir.com UAE Royals57468
2Micromax Indian Aces50318
3Manila Mavericks39533
4DBS Singapore Slammers38543
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Basketball

Roger Pogoy churns best performance against former teammates

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Prior to Wednesday, all eyes were on the TNT Katropa-Blackwater Elite face-off, with many curious to see how last season’s Rookie of the Year Roger Pogoy would fare against his former FEU teammates Mac Belo and Raymar Jose.

And as the final buzzer sounded, the 25-year-old Pogoy had reigned triumphant over his close pals, getting away with a conference-best performance as a bonus.

The six-foot-two Cebuano sniper fired a game-high 24 points on 10-of-14 shooting, along with eight rebounds, three assists, and two steals, to lead the Texters to a skid-ending, 92-83 victory at the SMART Araneta Coliseum.

“Must-win talaga namin ‘to para makabawi kami, kasi 1-2 na yung standing namin (before the game) eh.

“Buti na lang maganda yung nilaro ko,” said Pogoy, who was just averaging 11.3 points in the past three games.

But Pogoy tipped his hat to the much taller Elite, who enjoyed plenty of time in the driver’s seat in the first half, until the Katropa found their groove in the third canto — highlighted by a 16-3 rally that put them ahead, 60-53.

“Malakas yung Blackwater eh, tapos ang lalaki nila kaya mahirap mag-drive, mahirap pumasa kasi naagaw nila,” said Pogoy. “Buti na lang naka-adjust kami nung second half. Hindi kami nagmadali, dinahan-dahan namin.”

Aside from his own outing, Pogoy is thankful that they were able to address their fourth quarter woes when facing the Elite — the issue that hounded them in their 76-88 loss to the San Miguel Beermen last Saturday in Iloilo.

TNT had actually been mere steps away from melting down — again — against Blackwater, no thanks to a 20-9 run that wiped out their 17-point lead to just six,

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With Nash Racela knowing his tendencies, Mac Belo limited to poor shooting

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Prior to Wednesday, Blackwater Elite’s young star Mac Belo was on a roll early in the 2018 Philippine Cup, averaging exactly 20 points on 42.6 percent shooting in their games against Meralco, Rain or Shine, and Ginebra.

But, as they say, good things must come to an end.

Belo, despite having 13 rebounds, was held to just nine points on 4-of-18 shooting as the Elite bowed to TNT Katropa, 92-83 — a sour loss knowing that they’re coming off huge 94-77 win against Ginebra last Friday.

“Bukol,” said Belo in jest of his poor outing after the match. “Big test para sa’min kasi yung TNT talagang isang de-kalibreng team dito sa PBA.

“Talagang pinaghandaan nila kami, at gustong-gusto nila manalo.”

It also did not help that the Katropa’s head coach, Nash Racela, was his coach in FEU Tamaraws for three years — a relationship brightly highlighted by a championship run in the UAAP Season 78 back in 2015.

“Siyempre alam niya yung mga tendencies ko. Matagal ko siyang coach sa FEU,” said the 6-foot-4 forward.

“Sa akin naman, kailangan ko pa matuto sa ganun, kung anong mga defense binabato niya sakin. Kailangan ko pang pag-aralan.”

But for Belo, the loss was more than his own showing. The 25-year-old lamented his and the Elite’s lapses on defense, which was encapsulated by the second half collapse they had that allowed TNT to come back and steal the win.

“Medyo marami lang kaming lapses especially sa defense namin,” said the sophomore forward, as they allowed TNT to shoot 41.6 percent from the floor. “Maraming mga miscommunication na kailangan pa namin i-work.”

Belo and the Elite are now set to move on from this bitter defeat, as they all shift their sights in their match this Friday versus GlobalPort Batang Pier. For the Gilas Pilipinas stalwart, it is already a must-win for them.

“Kailangan namin ng rest ngayon kasi back-to-back games kami. We need to win sa Friday para okay sa’min,” said Belo. “Kailangan din namin paghandaan kasi galing sila sa win.

“Kailangan namin i-double yung effort namin.”

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Jake Vicen performs under pressure as Blazers end eight-year title drought

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For the second straight match, the championship showdown between the College of Saint Benilde Blazers and the Arellano University Chiefs reached kicks from the penalty spot. And once more, goalkeeper Jake Vicen came up big.

The third-year custodian denied one of Arellano’s prolific scorers Roberto Corsame in the shootout and sealed the title after eight long years, 3-2, penalties, Wednesday evening at the historic Rizal Memorial Stadium.

The Blazers made its intentions clear from the get-go as they repeatedly pierced through the defense of the Chiefs.

Nonetheless, at the 38th minute, the white-shirts clinched the goal they much deserved. The Blazers pushed forward, and almost got a call in their favor. The referees, however, played advantage, and fortunately Benilde held on to the play.

Miguel Artillera found himself unmarked on the right flank and easily blasted the ball past opposing keeper Jericho Desalisa.

The Marlon Maro—mentored side continued to play aggressive in the following period and almost plucked a second one. This time, the Chiefs’ backline led by eventual Best Defender Patrick Bernarte held on.

Such stand was rewarded by their attacking force minutes later, and, as expected, the equalizer came from the counterattack.

Corsame received a pass from the middle and defeated two defenders, and seeing Vicen off his line, sent the ball into the onion bag at the 49th minute.

Both sides tried to break the deadlock, but fatigue slowly crept in the dying minutes of the second period and the whole of extra time, setting up another thrilling finish in the shootout.

Much like in Game 2, the two keepers came up big as Desalisa and Vicen denied their second kickers a clear shot. Arellano went to miss another shot, and it was then up to the Blazers to seal the deal.

Dean Ebarle stepped up and calmly and slotted the ball into the goal for the lead at 3-2. Afterwards, Corsame faced Vicen, but this time, the Cebuano keeper would not be denied. The latter went to his strong side, and, fortunately, guessed right for the huge save as pandemonium erupted from the Benilde crowd and squad.

The Finals series hero and season Best Goalkeeper Vicen was pleased that the new champions carved out the historic win despite early adversity. “Big loss ‘yun, si Val [Calvo], kasi may magagawa talaga siya kung nakalaro namin,” he said of losing their former captain.

Nonetheless, the squad stayed focused on getting it done this year.

“Binuhos lang namin every minute sa training. Luckily, hard work paid off,” closed Vicen.

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Kelly Williams rides Angkas to make it to TNT game

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The TNT Katropa almost played shorthanded when they took on the Blackwater Elite Wednesday evening at the SMART-Araneta Coliseum.

Early in the afternoon, a fire broke out in C5 that caused major traffic in the area. One of the people that was stuck was TNT’s 12-year veteran Kelly Williams.

“Coming from the South, I got to Taguig in about two and a half hours and I heard there was a fire on C5 and I was like, ‘Oh my god what am I going to do?’,” recalled Williams.

“I considered running, I considered jogging. Whatever you got to do, crawl, walk or run.”

Panicking, the 6-foot-6 Filipino-American was adviced by his driver to download Philippine-based mobile app Angkas — a motorcycle service provider. And it was one heck of a ride for the big man.

“My driver said check Angkas, an Uber for motorcycles. Okay. Quickly got out of the car in the middle of the C5, the middle of traffic, found this guy under the overpass, he was surprised to see me,” narrated animatedly by Williams.

“I got my helmet on, jumped on the bicycle and we got here for about 40 minutes,” he furthered. “Every stoplight, the other motorcycles pull up, double take, ‘Oh, what are you doing here?’, ‘Hi guys!’ It was fun, it was actually pretty fun but never again, make sure you plan ahead guys if you possibly get stuck in traffic.

“But it was a good experience for me. You get to see Manila in a different light.”

Around midway through the first quarter of the game, Williams finally arrived. Though relieved to see him, coach Nash Racela and the rest of the Katropa made sure to let him know that he was late.

“Good experience, I apologized to the team, I owe them a team lunch or something and I told coach I won’t do it again,” the 35-year-old expressed.

“Let’s pray that it doesn’t happen again.”

Williams compensated for it by giving TNT quality minutes. During their 92-83 win against the Elite, he tallied six points, six rebounds, and four blocks in just 17 minutes of action.

“You got to come out there with extra effort after coming in late like that. But it’s always my intention to come out and do whatever I have to do,” he expressed.

“Luckily, I was in a good position to get some blocks and it worked out that way.”

And he owes a lot to his driver Richard, who got him to the venue just in time.

“It was a good experience though, thank you to the cyclist, I think his name is Richard or something like that, he’s a lifesaver.

“I tipped him very handsomely. It was about a hundred but I’m sure I paid with whatever was in my pocket because I was very grateful,” he quipped.

Still, he knows that he also owes a lot to his team. He plans on making it up by treating everyone to lunch during their next practice.

Lesson learned for Kelly.

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