The India leg of the International Premier Tennis League (IPTL) got a promising response from the fans on the opening day when Indian Aces edged out Manila Mavericks 26-25 in a late night thriller.
The UAE Royals thumped Singapore Slammers 29-16 in a one-sided affair before Indian Aces came from behind to beat Manila Mavericks in a super shoot-out.
The sizeable crowd at the Indian Gandhi Indoor Stadium got the first-hand taste of the fast-paced format made for creating its own space on the busy tennis calendar.
A much bigger treat is in store for the fans on Sunday when record 17-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer and 14-major winner Pete Sampras make their much awaited India debut.
The night tie began with home heroes Sania Mirza and Rohan Bopanna taking on Kirsten Flipkens and Daniel Nestor in the mixed doubles. The seasoned Indians were expected to give their team a 1-0 lead but they ended up losing a close match against the Mavericks 5-6.
In the past, champions singles, Indian Aces were put further on the back foot when retired Frenchman Cedric Pioline went down to Australia’s Mark Philppousis 4-6.
Bopanna and Gael Monfils pulled one back for Aces, defeating Treat Huey and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 6-5 in an intense men’s doubles match.
It was the turn of men’s singles next with an exciting battle on cards between world number 18 Monfils and 12th-ranked Tsonga.
The face-off between France teammate got crown really into the match with Monfils celebrating in his signature style every time he won a point. Eventually Tsonga won 6-4 to give Mavericks more breathing space.
With score in favour of the away team at 19-23, it was all down to Ana Ivanovic to rescue Aces. The world No 5 did not disappoint, winning the set 6-3 against Flipkens to take the match into a super shoot-out with scores tied at 25-25.
Monfils won the race to seven minutes 10-7 over Tsonga, giving the hosts a thrilling win.
In the first match earlier, world No 9 Marin Cilic delighted the spectators with his power-packed game that made him the 2014 US Open champion.
He proved to be too good for Singapore’s Lleyton Hewitt, the former world No 1 who looked way past his prime.
The Croat fired aces after aces, racing to a 5-1 lead in the one-off set. Hewitt, known for his fighting spirit all these years, came back to make it 3-5 before Cilic secured the set on the deciding point after 40-40. There is no ad-scoring in this innovative format.
Cilic then partnered doubles specialist Nenad Zimonjic to beat the Australian combine of Nick Kyrgios and Hewitt 6-2. It was a tad surprising the team did not choose the younger Kyrgios to play the men’s singles.
Next up was a fun match between two retired Grand Slam champions, UAE’s Goran Ivanisevic taking on Patrick Rafter in the past champions singles.
Ivanisevic, 43, did not put a foot wrong against his equally famed opponent, to win the set 6-1. The Croat engaged with the crowd every time he served the trademark ace of his hey days.
“I really felt good. When you are up 5-0 against Pat, you know you are doing something well,” said Ivanisevic after the match.
The mixed doubles saw UAE’s Zimonjic and Kristina Mladenovic getting past Daniela Hantuchova and Kyrgios 6-4.
The 63rd-ranked Hantuchova pulled off a consolation win for Singapore by surprising world No 8 Caroline Wozniacki 6-5.
She further helped the team’s cause by earning a bonus point after winning the last game.
“It will take some time for Indian fans to get used to the format. Besides no ad-scoring, all matches are played on best of five format with each set played to six games with a five-minute shoot-out at 5-5. The most talked innovation is the ‘Shot Clock’, aimed at restricting the duration between two service points to 20 seconds.