Defending champions Indian Aces eked out a 25-24 win against first-timers Japan Warriors in their opening match of the International Premier Tennis League (IPTL) season two that began in Kobe on Wednesday.
Singapore Slammers had sailed past UAE Royals 26-20 in the first match of the season two at the Kobe World Hall.
Though debutants Japan Warriors ended up on the losing side, the home team started well with the mixed doubles pairing of Maria Sharapova and Pierre-Hugues Herbert surprising the seasoned Indian duo of Sania Mirza and Rohan Bopanna in the opening set, winning it 6-5.
The players were greeted by a packed house that had families, kids and tennis aficionados rooting for their favorite stars.
The next set was the women’s singles between Sharapova and Samantha Stosur and the Russian trumped the Australian 6-5, giving Warriors a 12-10 advantage.
Now it was the turn of stars of yesteryear, Marat Safin and Fabrice Santoro, who took on each other in legend’s singles. Spaniard Santoro prevailed over the Russian 6-2 to take the visitors past Warriors in the overall scoreline. The men’s doubles also went to the Indian team as Bopanna and Gael Monfils defeated local Kei Nishikori and doubles specialist Herbert 6-5.
Though Nishikori managed to get the better of Monfils in the men’s singles, it was not enough for a win with loud cheers as the Royals won 26-20.
In the first match of the day, Ana Ivanovic won the women’s singles 6-3 over Belinda Bencic to give UAE Royals a winning start.
Next up in the men’s singles, the power-packed shot making of Tomas Berdych and Nick Kyrgios was a hit with the crowd. Kyrgios won convincingly (6-2) for Singapore Slammers, the only set his team won during the evening.
In the men’s doubles, Berdych and Daniel Nestor showcased some brilliant shot-making against the equally clever play of Marcelo Melo and Dustin Brown, though the Royals emerged victorious 6-5.
The combine of Kristina Mladenovic and Nestor and Goran Ivanisevic showed their class by taking the last two sets — mixed doubles and men’s legends singles respectively — with relative ease, giving the Royals a winning start in season 2 of the IPTL.
His side lost the match on Wednesday but Kyrgios was upbeat to be in the second season of the IPTL.
“I love IPTL, it’s a great format, its shows what tennis can be. I personally love playing in a team environment, I used to play basketball as a kid, so I love have team-mates around,” said the Australian.
Local hero Nishikori was delighted to be playing at home.
“It was great experience for me to be a part of the IPTL because I got to could play with so many great men’s and women’s tennis players, with whom you do not usually play. I especially enjoyed playing and sitting alongside the legendary Marat Safin. This would be my most memorable moment from the IPTL today (Wednesday),” said Nishikori.
He added, “I don’t usually play doubles. So I was happy with how Herbert did a great job, especially his volley, in the doubles game tonight. I could not hit the ball comfortably today (Wednesday), but I will make sure I adjust to the court and do my best tomorrow (Thursday).”
Leander Paes, who is part of the Japan Warriors, did not get to play on Wednesday.