The Philippines is a basketball and boxing country, but last night it transformed itself to a veritable tennis mecca. The sport’s biggest names came out to entertain the packed crowd at the Mall of Asia Arena as the league started its 1st day of competition.
The Indian Aces were first up against the Singapore Slammers. Later in the night, home team Manila Mavericks went head-to-head with the UAE Royals.
Day 1 / Match 1
Indian Aces vs. Singapore Slammers
In the opening set of the first match, Indian stars Sanja Mirza and Rohan Bopanna defeated duo Daniela Hantuchova and Bruno Soares in mixed doubles. The Aces were the first to break serve and were up by 4-2 in the sixth game. Singapore later retaliated and broke back two games later before conceding the first set at 40-0.
Match 1 / Set 1 / Mixed Doubles
6-4 in favor of Mirza/Bopana over Hantuchova/Soares
Past Champions Singles was the second match-up for the night with Fabrice Santoro and Pat Rafter keeping it close and exciting. The pair exchanged breaks throughout the set and were tied 5-5 after exchanging breaks of serve. At the tenth game and tied at 5-5, the two were the first to experience the 5-minute shoot-out rule introduced by the IPTL. Ace Santoro gave chase to a number of well-placed Rafter returns as he overcame the Slammer 8-4 in the tiebreak.
The Indian Aces were now up by 2 sets.
Match 1 / Set 2 / Past Champions Singles
6-4 (8-4) in favor of Fabrice Santoro over Pat Rafter
Croatian Tomas Berdych was paired with rising Australian star Nick Kyrgios to go up against Frenchman Gael Monfils and doubles specialist Rohan Bopanna. The big names of the men’s singles game delighted the crowd with their pace with Monfils in particular becoming the crowd favorite. He featured some of his between-the-leg shots, and his showmanship endeared him to the audience.
Showmanship was not enough however as the Berdych/Kyrgios pairing offered too much firepower for Bopanna/Monfils. The two succumbed to the Singapore Slammers with a Kyrgios drop shot at 40-15 in the eighth game.
Match 1 / Set 3 / Men’s Doubles
6-2 in favor of Berdych/Kyrgios over Bopanna/ Monfils
World No. 5 Ana Ivanovic went head-to-head with World No. 57 Daniela Hantuchova in the fourth set. The Serbian showed glimpses of the form that rocketed her back to the top 10 after a 6-year slump in the rankings. She resoundingly “bageled” the Russian; the exhibition game status not withstanding her masterful form.
Match 1 / Set 4 / Women’s Singles
6-0 in favor Ana Ivanovic over Daniela Hantuchova
The Indian Aces were now up 3-1 against the Slammers, and the last set for the first match was reserved for Frenchman Monfils and Australian great Lleyton Hewitt.
The Hewitt serve was broken early on and Monfils was quickly up by 2 sets. Hewitt broke back in the third game with a drop-shot to make it 2-1 still in favor of Monfils.
At the third game, Monfils was penalized for a shot clock violation, and true to his showman reputation he pretended to be upset with the umpire only to make a face to the crowd later in the game.
The set had its share of long rallies and the match-up was much more competitive than the final scoreline suggests, but it was mostly Monfils as he continued to hold serve and score the break points.
Match 1 / Set 5 / Men’s Singles
6-1 in favor of Gael Monfils over Lleyton Hewitt
The final scoring system spreads the games won over the sets played in the match. The Aces were up 4 sets to the Slammers’ 1. The Indian Aces defeated the Singapore Slammers with a total score of 26 to 16.
Match 1 Result
Indian Aces def. Singapore Slammers
Day 1 / Match 2
Manila Mavericks vs. UAE Royals
The home team Manila Mavericks had a full-man line-up with the likes of Maria Sharapova, Andy Murray, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Carlos Moya, Daniel Nestor, Kirsten Flipkens, and player-coach Fil-American Treat Huey. The UAE Royals had a trimmer line-up by comparison but were equally formidable with Marin Cilic, Goran Ivanisevic, Kristina Mladenovic, Nenad Zimonjic, and Malek Jaziri.
The Mavericks had the court and crowd advantage and were the ones who determined order of play. First up were legends Ivanisevic and Moya.
In the first game, the Croatian and Spaniard kept it competitive with each player holding serve until the tenth game. The forced shoot-out went back and forth between them and the self-confessed “old guys” showed they still had what it takes to compete at a high level, at least for a set with each other.
Match 2 / Set 1 / Past Champions Singles
6-5 (7-6) in favor of Goran Ivanisevic over Carlos Moya
Later on in the second set, top-ranked men’s singles players were each paired with a doubles specialist: it was US Open Champ Cilic with Zimonjic, and French no. 1 Tsonga with Huey.
It was a close set with each pair holding serve down to the eight game. Cilic/Zimonjic pulled away subsequently after, however, breaking and then holding serve to finish the set.
Match 2 / Set 2 / Men’s Doubles
6-4 in favor of Marin Cilic/ Nenad Zimonjic over Treat Huey/Jo-Wilfriend Tsonga
The third match-up of the main event was the big names against the doubles masters. Two-time Grand Slam Champion Murray was paired with 5-time Grand Slam winner Maria Sharapova, while on the other side of the net was 3-time Grand Slams doubles champ Nenad Zimonjic with 2-time Grand Slam winner Kristina Mladenovic.
The doubles players showed exactly why they’ve each won his fair share of doubles trophies. Murray/Sharapova suffered early on with their lack of chemistry on court but they improved as the game progressed. Buoyed by the fans’ cheerful support, the Scot and the Russian were down by as much as 5-1 but caught up to Zimonjic/Mladenovic by winning three consecutive games.
Up by 5-4, however, Zimonjic and Mladenovic only needed one more game to close the set out and they held serve to win the set for the Royals. UAE was up two sets to love.
Match 2 / Set 3 / Mixed Doubles
6-4 Nenad Zimonjic/Kristina Mladenovic over Andy Murray/Maria Sharapova
The Women’s Singles players only needed a couple of minutes between the second set to get started on the third. Sharapova was up against Mladenovic and it was the Frenchwoman who raced to make it 3-1 in her favor. Still down 4-2, Sharapova staged a comeback featuring one of the most famous catchphrases in tennis: “Come on!” She caught up to Mladenovic by winning three games in a row to force a shoot-out.
It was all Sharapova from there as she built a comfortable lead with time left on the clock. She won the set with 7-3 on the tiebreak.
Match 2 / Set 4 / Women’s Singles
6-5 (7-3) Maria Sharapova over Kristina Mladenovic
In the last game of the night, Murray went against familiar foe Cilic. The two have met 12 times in the past with Murray leading the head-to-head with 10 wins to Cilic’s two.
It was a tight game throughout the set with both players either holding serve or breaking the other only to be broken in return. At 5-5, the third and final tiebreak of the night was won by Cilic. With time winding down, he purposefully double-faulted on the eleventh point to make it 7-4, still in his favor.
Match 2 / Set 5 / Men’s Singles
6-5 Marin Cilic over Andy Murray
The Manila Mavericks lost their first home game to the UAE Royals 1 set to 4. The final score was 24 to 27 in favor of the Royals. Daniel Nestor and Kristen Flipkens of the Mavericks did not play in the match but are expected to participate in the next few days of the tournament.
Match 2 Result
UAE Royals def. Manila Mavericks
Team Standings after the Day 1 of the IPTL
|Micromax Indian Aces
|Musafir.com UAE Royals
|DBS Singapore Slammers