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MNL Mavericks close out home leg with win; IND Aces complete sweep

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The local leg of the International Premiere Tennis League concluded in exciting fashion and to a packed home crowd for the Manila Mavericks. The night featured a surprise appearance in the legends category and the hotly anticipated Philippine debut of the women’s world no. 1 Serena Williams.

The Indian Aces went head-to-head against fellow undefeated UAE Royals, while the Manila Mavericks tested their luck against the Singapore Slammers.

Day 3 / Match 1
UAE Royals vs. Indian Aces

The first match-up of the night was in the Women’s Singles category between world no. 5 Ana Ivanovic and world no. 68 Kristina Mladenovic.

Despite the difference in singles ranking, the 21-year old Mladenovic took control of the match early on. Ivanovic held serve for the first game but the combination of some superb hitting and well-placed drop shots from Mladenovic, together with a series of poor service games by Ivanovic, put the Frenchwoman up 5-1.

In the seventh game and down 30-40, Ivanovic called a “happiness power point” and successfully broke the Mladenovic serve to serve set point.

Ivanovic rallied in the following games and narrowed the lead to 5-4 with an ace. She continued her resurgence in the tenth game but was broken at deuce by Mladenovic.

Match 1 / Set 1 / Women’s Singles
6-4 in favor of Kristina Mladenovic over Ana Ivanovic

For the mixed doubles affair, tandem Rohan Bopanna and Sania Mirza of the Indian Aces were up against the duo of Kristina Mladenovic and Nenad Zimonjic of the UAE Royals.

The two teams both held serve on the first two games but it was the comfortable chemistry of the Aces Bopanna/Mirza that quickly built a comfortable lead 5 sets to 1.

On the seventh game and down 15-40, Mladenovic/Zimonjic called on a “happiness power point” to level at deuce. The Royals went on to save set point and by virtue of a long Bopanna forehand narrowed the lead again in the following game.

At 5-3, however, it was the Aces who took control of the match once more. They held serve and closed out the set.

Match 1 / Set 2 / Mixed Doubles
6-3 in favor of Bopanna/Mirza over Mladenovic/Zimonjic

The third set of the night featured another doubles match-up but this time in the Men’s category. Earlier players Bopanna and Zimonjic teamed up with Gael Monfils and Marin Cilic, respectively, and it was Bopanna/Monfils who were quick to pounce on some key Cilic errors. The Indian Aces raced up to lead 3 games to 1.

In the fifth game, Cilic/Zimonjic tried to counter their opponents’ advance but were stopped in part thanks to some excellent serving by Bopanna.

Bopanna/Monfils continued to dictate the pace of tennis and were playing for the set as soon as the eighth game. Cilic/Zimonjic staved off the set point for two more games but finally succumbed to the Aces at 40-0 in the tenth.

Match 1 / Set 3 / Men’s Doubles
6-4 in favor of Bopanna/Monfils over Cilic/Zimonjic

In the second singles match-up of the night, Gael Monfils was up against US Open Champion Marin Cilic.

Cilic was first to serve but was broken by Monfils in the first game. Monfils subsequently held serve and was up 2-0 before Cilic pulled one over Monfils. A few points into the third game, the UAE Royals called a timeout and decided to replace Cilic with 76th in the world Malek Jaziri.

It was Jaziri’s first match in front of the Manila crowd but he made an immediate impact in the set by winning the fourth game with his sharp returns against Monfils.

It was neck and neck with each player holding serve throughout the fifth and sixth games. At 4-3, Monfils again showcased some of his high-flying acrobatics by diving to reach a volley.

At 5-3 and after a particularly tight volley exchange between the two, it was Jaziri’s turn for some acrobatics. Jaziri back-pedalled, lowered his center of gravity, and rolled backwards to get back up on his feet, ready to pounce to the net.

Monfils sensed the orientation of the Tunisian to one side of the court, however, and the Frenchman directed his lob to opposite Jaziri.

Monfils pulled away yet again in the ninth game, 40-0, to score another set win for the Aces. They were now up 3 sets to the Royals’ 1.

Match 1 / Set 4 / Men’s Singles
6-3 in favor of Gael Monfils over Marin Cilic (sub. Malek Jaziri)

For the last set of the series, former Wimbledon Champion Goran Ivanisevic was up against wily Frenchman Fabrice Santoro.

Santoro raced to a 2-0 lead before Ivanisevic finally asserted his fearsome serve to level it at 2-2. The pair were neck and neck until the eighth game before Santoro pulled away to 5-4. It was Santoro again in the tenth game when he broke the Ivanisevic serve and consolidated the Aces’ victory.

Match 1 / Set 5 / Past Champions Singles
6-4 in favor Santoro over Ivanisevic

The Indian Aces came away with their 3rd consecutive victory in as many days. It was 4 sets to 1 with 28 points in favor of the Aces to the UAE Royals’ 22.

Match 1 Result
Indian Aces def. UAE Royals


Day 3 / Match 2
Manila Mavericks vs. Singapore Slammers

Since Carlos Moya was injured in a match-up with Santoro a day earlier, it was unclear to the packed arena who would replace the Spaniard in the Mavericks lineup. It was only when the names of the Mavericks were being announced that Mark Philippousis, the surprise of the night, made himself known.

The Australian was matched with compatriot Pat Rafter to start off the match for the Past Champions Singles.

Philippousis started the match strong and it was obvious from the get-go that he still had the fierce serve he was known for in his heyday. Philippousis was first to hold serve followed by Rafter.

The two were tied 2-2 when Philippousis started to take control of the set.

As much as the serve-and-volleyer tried, Rafter was overwhelmed by Philippousis’ groundstrokes and the set closed at 6-2, in favor of the Moya substitute.

Match 2 / Set 1 / Past Champions Singles
6-2 in favor of Mark Philippousis over Pat Rafter

The second set was the men’s doubles match-up between Mavericks Huey and Tsonga against Slammers Berdych and Hewitt.

Berdych/Hewitt raced to 2-0 and it was Huey/Tsonga who had to catch up to the Slammers.

In the third game, excellent net play by Tsonga finally leveled the games at 2 apiece.

Tsonga fired a couple of aces in the fourth set and the Mavericks were quickly up 3-2 against the Slammers. Two games later, the Aces overtook the lead 4-3 before they decided to substitute Hewitt for Nick Kyrgios.

Kyrgios tried to use his serve against the Mavericks but it wasn’t enough to stop the onslaught of Huey/Tsonga winners.

Berdych leveled the match in the tenth and a shoot-out proceeded between the two teams.

It was a close tiebreak with lots of exciting exchanges. Down 7-5, the Berdych/Kyrgios tandem ran out of time to catch up to the resilient Mavericks.

Match 2 / Set 2 / Men’s Doubles
6-5 (7-5) in favor of Huey/Tsonga over Berdych/Hewitt (sub. Kyrgios)

For the third set of the match-up, Andy Murray paired with Kirsten Flipkens to go head-to-head with Lleyton Hewitt and Serena Williams.

It was Williams’ first time to play a set in the competition and it was obvious she needed time to adjust not only to the court but also to her partner Hewitt.

Murray/Flipkens easily built a comfortable lead 5 sets to love, and it was only in the sixth game that Hewitt/Williams were able to pull one over the Mavericks.

The one game consolation saved the Slammers from the dreaded bagel but only delayed the inevitable Murray/Flipkens win.

Match 2 / Set 3 / Mixed Doubles
6-1 in favor of Murray/Flipkens over Hewitt/Williams

Williams and Flipkens stayed over from Mixed Doubles to play each other in the Women’s Singles set.

Williams was quick to put the earlier lopsided loss behind her as she asserted her strong serve in the singles match-up.

Down 2-0, Flipkens retaliated with a couple of forehand winners to make it a more competitive 2-1, but it was Williams again in the fourth and fifth games even as the American was by now struggling with her serve.

Flipkens won the next few points and was up 40-0 to get to a closer 3 sets to Williams’ lead of 4, but Williams broke the Flipkens serve in the eighth game and served for the set in the ninth.

At 15-40, a Flipkens “happiness power point” leveled the match to deuce. Williams brushed it off, however, and powered through her first and only singles match in Manila.

Match 2 / Set 4 / Women’s Singles
6-3 in favor of Serena Williams over Kirsten Flipkens

For the last set of the evening, Andy Murray was up against Nick Kyrgios.

Murray started the match-up horribly as he double faulted on the first point and was subsequently broken by Kyrgios in the first game.

Murray broke back in the next to level it at 1-1. The pair exchanged breaks of serve throughout the set and leveled it at five apiece to force a shoot-out.

Murray was quick to build a comfortable lead on his serve at 4-0 before Kyrgios rallied to narrow the lead to 4-3. The pair kept within striking distance of each other until the last minute of the tiebreak.

Murray, in his last singles set of the IPTL, edged Kyrgios 7-5 after the 5-minute shoot-out.

Match 2 / Set 5 / Men’s Singles
6-5 (7-5) in favor of Andy Murray over Nick Kyrgios

The Manila Mavericks ended their home run in style as they thwarted the Singapore Slammers 4 sets to 1 with 27 points accrued over the Slammers’19. It was the Mavericks’ only team win in the Manila leg of the IPTL.

Match 2 Result
Manila Mavericks def. Singapore Slammers


Team Standings after the 3rd Day of the IPTL

TEAM NAMEMatches PlayedMatches WonMatches LostPoints Tally
1Indian Aces33012
2UAE Royals32110
3Manila Mavericks3127
4Singapore Slammers3034
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ABL

Joshua Munzon, Westsports snap Saigon’s streak in highly emotional contest

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Photo by ASEAN Basketball League

Entering Wednesday night’s game, Mikey Williams and the Saigon Heat were on a high, slaying the winning streaks of Hong Kong Eastern and Nanhai Kung Fu. However, Joshua Munzon and the Westsports Malaysia Dragons had other things in mind, keeping the Heat winless at the MABA Stadium, 91-87.

In his fourth game since returning to the Dragons, Munzon filled up the stat sheet, tallying 18 points, 10 rebounds, six assists, two steals, and two blocks.

Besides putting up the numbers, the athletic swingman from California helped limit reigning Heritage Player of the Week Williams to his worst game so far in the ABL. Averaging 27.33 points, 6.67 assists, and 6.0 rebounds prior to this game, Williams went field goal-less against the Dragons, missing all 11 of his attempts. The Filipino-American floor general was able to dish out eight assists and grab five caroms.

Westsports led by as much as 11 points in the final frame, 82-71, after Munzon found Marcus Marshall for a triple with 4:59 remaining. Behind World Imports Akeem Scott and Maxie Esho, the Heat stormed right back but was answered by a long bomb by Munzon to keep them at bay.

Marshall and Scott figured in a shootout to close out the game but in the end, the hosts were still able to etch out their second straight victory.

Marshall finished the game with 25 points, nine assists and six rebounds for the Dragons while Scott’s 44-point game went for naught.

After the emotionally charged contest though, few unkind words were exchanged by the officials of both squads that almost resulted into a brawl. Fortunately, things did not escalate beyond that.

In the video, Munzon was also seen shoving a Saigon player to try and pacify the situation. The league is currently investigating the post-game incident.

With the win, Westsports Malaysia raised its record to 3-4 while dropping Saigon to 4-3.

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Mixed Martial Arts

Edward Kelly honored to fight alongside brother Eric

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Eric and Edward Kelly lived under the same roof for years in their hometown of Baguio City when they were young and shared the same burning passion in martial arts.

Growing up in the small town community of San Tomas Central, located within the city limits of Baguio, Eric and Edward did not always get along with one another as the two fought all the time, sometimes even resulting in injury.

“We were not that close before. We always fought. In short, Eric and I were headaches to our parents,” Edward recalled in jest.

“But of course, things change when you grow up and mature. We now appreciate each other’s company.”

Fortunately, when the brothers entered high school, Eric discovered martial arts, and everything would change for both of them.

Edward paid attention to the growing accolades of his older brother and was heavily motivated by it.

“I noticed after he started martial arts that it taught him the discipline not to fight me as a brother. Instead, he started giving me advice through what he had learned,” he bared. “I also joined martial arts because it teaches you discipline, and a lot of other positives, too.”

Years later, both men have made remarkable runs as outstanding martial artists in their respective professional careers.

Eric is widely regarded as one of the best homegrown martial arts athletes to come out of the Philippines.

A Wushu practitioner who combines solid striking techniques with high-level grappling skills, Eric owns nine scintillating submissions and one knockout out of 12 total career victories.

Eric’s most impressive showing to date came in a submission win over Rob Lisita in July 2014, a performance that earned him the USD 50,000 ONE Warrior Bonus.

Meanwhile, Edward is considered as one of the best and brightest featherweight prospects to emerge from the well-established martial arts scene in the Philippines.

With a complete striking and grappling skill set, Edward brings Team Lakay’s world-renowned Wushu to center stage as he showcases his impeccable skillset inside the ONE Championship cage.

In addition, the younger Kelly has won three of his last four bouts under the ONE Championship banner, all by spectacular finish.

The Kelly brothers get a rare chance on Friday, January 26 as the siblings will compete side-by-side when ONE Championship holds its first of the four scheduled events in the country for 2018.

Eric squares off with Brazilian standout Rafael Nunes on the undercard of ONE: Global Superheroes, while Edward crosses paths with Cambodia’s Meas Meul in a three-round featherweight clash.

It is the first time both of them will be featured at a ONE Championship event together, and Edward plans to make it a night they will never forget.

“I am so excited because finally, it’s going to happen. It marks the first time that I will compete alongside my older brother. Surely, it’s going to be a memorable night for the both of us,” he said.

“We have the same aim of winning. So making it two for two on this card will make this extra special.”

As Eric seeks to get back on the winning track at the expense of Nunes, Edward is likewise looking to move forward in his career after getting his three-bout winning streak snapped by American stalwart Emilio Urrutia in August 2017.

In his next cage outing, Edward goes up against Meul, a undefeated promotional newcomer with six wins to his credit.

“My coaches has prepared me well for this. I am not going to disappoint my team and my country when I enter that cage on 26th of January,” Edward assured. “I don’t want to let my countrymen down this time. I am here to give them a great bout.

“And of course, win the bout in impressive fashion for them.”

Edward has no qualms if he has to go full three rounds with Meul, but he admitted that his sights are always set on securing the finish.

“I am looking to dominate him for three rounds. But hopefully, I can get the finish,” he vowed.

“A finish will be the perfect way to tell the world that I am back.”

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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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Basketball

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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