On a chilly day at New Delhi, tennis was served hot at the vibrant RK Khanna Tennis Stadium as Pune Marathas were crowned champions of the inaugural Champions Tennis League (CTL). Former Australian Open runner-up Marcos Baghdatis stole the show as he helped the Pune team edge past the Delhi Dreams 27-23.
Legends Singles: Pat Cash v Juan Carlos Ferrero
There was some scintillating display of tennis in the final right from the first match. The legends match pitted two Grand Slam champions of contrasting styles against each other – Pat Cash of Pune Marathas v Juan Carlos Ferrero of Delhi Dreams.
Pat Cash’s tennis was a lovely throwback to the days of serve and volley while Ferrero’s passing shots were a treat to watch. The match was evenly poised when Ferrero’s deadly backhand passing shot helped to break and go up 4-2.
The former French Open champion who still runs like a sprightly teenager, consolidated the break to lead 5-2. By smartly moving the Wimbledon winner around the court, he sealed the deal for the Delhi Dreams 6-3.
Unfortunately, the home team could not capitalize on a fantastic start given by the Spaniard and that remained their only win of the day.
Mixed Doubles: Marcos Baghdatis/Agnieszka Radwanska v Sanam Singh/Jelena Jankovic
By then the crowd had absolutely come alive at the stadium. Their enthusiasm was palpable as the tennis lovers started getting involved in the matches with frequent chants and drum beats.
For the Delhi team, Sanam Singh partnered Jelena Jankovic in the mixed doubles clash as Kevin Anderson had a niggling injury. Marcos Baghdatis joined forces with World No. 6 Agnieszka Radwanska for the Pune Marathas.
It was the Maharashtrian team who drew the first blood. The Polish No. 1 broke the Delhi team with a superb forehand down-the-line to go up 3-2. But their joy was short-lived as after an incredible crosscourt rally between Baghdatis and Jankovic, the match was back on level terms at 3-3.
As the match headed to a tie-break, Sanam Singh earned Delhi the first mini-break at 3-1. Unfortunately, a vital volley miss by the Indian paved the way for the Pune team to come back and the in-form Pune team snatched victory 6-5 (5-3). The overall score read 11-9 in favor of Delhi
Women’s Singles: Agnieszka Radwanska v Jelena Jankovic
Next up was the women’s singles which was the most anticipated match of the day. When a former World No. 1 fights it out against a former World No. 2, the match is definitely one to savour. Besides, this tie was crucial in deciding the fate of the teams.
The Pole looked a bit slow on the feet and lethargic in her shots initially. That gave an advantage to the Serbian former World No. 1 who began dictating the play. Jankovic broke in the very first game to extend the lead for the Ajay Devgn-owned team to 12-9.
But Radwanska is not an easy player to put away. With her deft touches, she soon broke back and the match continued in the same fashion with a series of breaks.
The players regaled the crowd with some spectacular backhand-to-backhand rallies throughout the set. However, as the Wimbledon runner-up cut down on her mistakes, errors started creeping into Jankovic’s game.
The Serb crumbled, while serving to stay in the set and handed over victory to Radwanska 4-6. The final was now evenly poised at 15-15.
Men’s Doubles: Saketh Myneni/Marcos Baghdatis v Sanam Singh/Kevin Anderson
Doubles partners Saketh Myneni and Sanam Singh faced each other in the men’s doubles encounter. Pune began nervously with Marcos Baghdatis missing an overhead and an easy volley that helped Delhi break for a 3-2 lead. The 6’8’’ Kevin Anderson strengthened the lead further with his booming serves.
However Baghdatis and Myneni, egged on by vociferous Pune supporters, soon roared back into contention and broke Anderson’s serve to level the score at 4-4. The closely-fought set deservedly went to the tie-break.
Baghdatis, the star of the final, grabbed this grand opportunity to take the victory for the visiting team. Pune Marathas won the men’s doubles 6-5 (5-2). The doubles triumph also enabled Pune to get a slender edge over Delhi Dreams 21-20.
Men’s Singles: Marcos Baghdatis v Kevin Anderson
It was then left on the able shoulders of the Cypriot to win the title for the Pune Marathas and he did not disappoint. Marcos Baghdatis staved off a break point to begin the final set of the day. But a wild forehand miss in his next service game aided the World No. 16 Kevin Anderson to secure a break.
It helped the home team to restore parity at 22-22. The South African’s hopes were soon dashed by some blazing backhand returns from the Cypriot.
The supremely confident Baghdatis first broke to lead 5-3 and then with an amazing forehand down-the-line sealed victory for the Pune Marathas. The final score read 27-23 in favour of the Pune team.
The winning team was awarded Rs one crore cash prize while the runner-up got Rs. 50 lakh.
Marcos Baghdatis had been an indispensable part of the Pune Marathas and remained unbeaten throughout the tournament. The Robert Amritraj Most Valuable Player award quite deservedly went to the Cypriot.
Saketh Myneni who is on a high after the Asian Games gold, was a key player of the Maharashtrian team. He received the Margaret Amritraj Best Performing Indian award.
The Vijay Amritraj-founded CTL thus wrapped up after 10 days of some delectable tennis. The influx of so many established stars surely helped to build the excitement among tennis aficionados. The concept is an innovative one and the first season has been enjoyable for both the players and the fans.
In a country where sports is dominated by cricket, we need more such initiatives. Vijay Amritraj’s efforts will thus go a long way in helping to change the sports scenario in India.
Here’s looking forward to the next season of Champions Tennis League!