After three days of lively tennis, exuberant crowd and a very enjoyable atmosphere, the Manila leg of the Coco Cola International Premier Tennis League (IPTL) wrapped up on Sunday. The Indian Aces remained unbeaten at the end of the leg as they beat the UAE Royals on the last day. In the second match of the day, the home team Manila Mavericks also notched up their first win of the IPTL by defeating the Serena Williams-led Singapore Slammers.
The Indian Aces defeated the UAE Royals by a 28-20 margin. After three consecutive wins, the Aces continue to lead the IPTL table with 12 points.
The Aces got off to a stuttering start on Sunday though. There was an upset in the first match of the day as Ana Ivanovic lost for the first time at this event to World No. 67 Kristina Mladenovic.
The two-time mixed doubles Grand Slam champion Mladenovic who was a replacement for Eugenie Bouchard, raced away to a 5-1 lead. But an inspired fightback by the former World No. 1 Serbian closed the gap to 4-6.
US Open mixed doubles champion Sania Mirza was next up for the Aces with her compatriot Rohan Bopanna. They had remained unbeaten so far in IPTL and they didn’t disappoint their team on Sunday. The Indian duo had been performing exceptionally well at this tournament with many fans even expressing their desire to see them together at Slams.
Sania Mirza and Bopanna came up with some clever shotmaking to beat the pair of Mladenovic and Nenad Zimonjic 6-3.
Bopanna had double duty as he immediately took the court again in the men’s doubles, partnering the flamboyant Gael Monfils. The Frenchman regaled the spectators with some incredible passes that sent the crowd into raptures.
The Indo-French combine soon seized the lead for the Aces with a 6-4 victory over Royals’ Zimonjic and Marin Cilic.
Reigning US Open winner Marin Cilic was scheduled to be up next against Monfils in men’s singles. An arm injury unfortunately led to Cilic being substituted. Coach’s substitution is one of the innovations of the IPTL and Malek Jaziri was nominated to replace the Croatian.
Even though the Tunisian clearly enjoyed the atmosphere and exuded confidence initially, Monfils pulled off the win 6-3.
Past Champions Singles
The last match of this contest was the past champions singles in which Fabrice Santoro and 2001 Wimbledon winner Goran Ivanisevic squared off. In an entertaining display, Santoro of the Aces edged past UAE Royals’ Ivanisevic 6-4.
Gael Monfils who’s a showman later on revealed how much he loved performing in the throbbing ambience of IPTL.
‘’I love this format. This suits me well. I love the team atmosphere. We have fun out there. Actually we’re good friends – Ana, Sania – we grew up together. It’s a good competition because we have fun,” said the Frenchman.
Manila Mavericks v Singapore Slammers
The second match was between Manila Mavericks and Singapore Slammers. Both teams was yet to open their account. The clash was highly anticipated as the contest would see the World No. 1 Serena Williams for the first time in IPTL.
Serena’s debut in IPTL
The 18-time Grand Slam champion was given a roaring welcome by her adoring Filipino fans when she entered the Mall of Asia Arena. Despite her best efforts, the Singapore Slammers lost to Manila Mavericks 19-27.
Past Champions Singles
In the first match, former Wimbledon runner-up Mark Philippoussis made his debut in Manila. The Aussie who had delighted Indian fans few days back in the Champions Tennis League substituted for the injured Carlos Moya.
The Manila Mavericks player was sharp and did not take much time in wrapping up the past champions clash versus Pat Rafter 6-2.
Filipino Treat Huey who is the player-coach of the home team next took the court with Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in men’s doubles. In an exciting doubles match, they got the better of the Singapore pair of Tomas Berdych and Nick Kyrgios 6-5.
Serena Williams next played her first set of the 2014 IPTL. She took some time to settle into the rhythm of this new format.
Pairing up with Lleyton Hewitt, she played the mixed doubles first. The Singapore pair could not put up much resistance against the Manila mixed doubles combine of Andy Murray and Kirsten Flipkens. The British-Belgian duo sauntered to a 6-1 win.
Serena came into her own in the women’s singles match. Showing glimpses of her usual fighting spirit, the top-ranked women’s player pulled one back for the Singapore team. Serena notched up a convincing 6-3 win to give the Singapore Slammers some hope in the tie.
Andy Murray soon washed out those hopes for the visiting team. Australian teenager Nick Kyrgios of Singapore tried his best but ultimately bowed out to Andy Murray 5-6.
The British No. 1 who had been struggling for wins at the IPTL, delighted the Manila spectators with his first singles win.
World No. 6 Andy Murray said he was thrilled by the IPTL atmosphere. The two-time Grand Slam champion even promised to play more next year.
‘’No one really knew exactly how it was going to go, but because of how much I enjoyed it, and how well organized it was, I would consider playing more next year, for sure,’’ signed off Murray.
The Mahesh Bhupathi-founded IPTL next moves on to Singapore. The matches will be held from December 2-4.