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Tiebreaker Times

Back on track: Philippine Mavericks pull off close victory in Dubai

The Philippine Mavericks broke their two-game slump to open the Dubai Leg of the second season of the International Premier Tennis League after winning over hosts Obi UAE Royals, 26-24, at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Stadium, Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

With Milos Raonic and Richard Gasquet out after suffering injuries, two elite players donned the Mavericks colors for the first time this year. Former world number four American James Blake and Croatian Ivo Karlovic showed that they are more than capable as replacements in their first assignments as Mavs.

The day started well for the Mavs, with Blake pulling off a 6-5 win over Goran Ivanisevic in the men’s legend’s singles. Both players served fairly throughout the match, 53% first serve percentage for Ivanisevic and 56% for Blake. These problems on their respective service games led to break point opportunities, which they both converted. Blake had the edge on winners, 11-8, and committed less unforced errors, 11-15, to clinch the first set.

Kristina Mladenovic turned it around for the Royals in the women’s singles set after drubbing Ajla Tomljanovic, 6-2. Mladenovic had problems on her first serves, but was able to control the match. The French broke Tomljanovic’s service thrice to wrest the match lead, 11 games to 8. Tomljanovic only scored a solitary winner and committed 15 unforced errors, while Mladenovic had nine winners, including two aces.

The Mavericks slowly crept back into the match starting with the mixed doubles set. Edouard Roger-Vasselin and Jarmila Gajdosova showed their improved on-court chemistry as doubles partners to upend Marin Cilic and Mladenovic with a 6-5 decision. It was a tight outing for both sides as both were only broken once in their service games. Roger-Vasselin and Gajdosova pulled out all the stops in the tiebreak to clinch the set and cut the match deficit to two, 14-16.

Roger-Vasselin and Filipino ace player Treat Huey levelled the match at 20 games in the men’s doubles set against the strong pair of Cilic and former world number one Roger Federer. The Mavericks pair turned to their impeccable service, 71% of first serves, to edge their opponents. Roger-Vasselin and Huey had a solitary break on the Royal’s serve, which made the difference in the score line. Cilic and Federer also committed an uncharacteristic 14 unforced errors in the set.

Karlovic wrapped up the comeback win for the Mavericks after defeating Federer in the men’s singles set, 6-4. The 6’11” Croatian and former world top player had a power serving battle as they combined for nine aces. Karlovic also had 75% first serve percentage, with Federer right behind with 64%. With a totally even match of ten winners and seven unforced errors each, the solitary break of serve of Karlovic on the Federer serve was the difference in the score line and the match.

The Philippine Mavericks improved to 5-3, while the UAE Royals slipped to 3-4. The win by the Mavericks against the Royals (Manila, December 6) is not counted towards the latter’s record due to the current format of the IPTL. The Mavs will face the defending champions Micromax Indian Aces on Tuesday, 8:00 pm Philippine time.

Grew to appreciate various sports from tennis to judo. True-maroon kiddo since the new millennium. Fanboy. Singer. Occasional sports writer.

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