IPTL Day Five Recap: Nadal Makes Debut, Williams Scores Big Wins
Rafael Nadal takes to the court at the IPTL./Photo: IPTL

Day five of the International Premier Tennis League (IPTL) saw one of the biggest names in tennis make his debut in the league. Rafael Nadal headlined the day and made waves as his Indian Aces continued their roll in Manila, Philippines. The day also saw the Japan Warriors in action, looking for their first win of the year.

Indian Aces - UAE Royals

All eyes were on Rafael Nadal as he led the Aces on day five and the team was fired up. Nadal’s Indian Aces swept the UAE Royals, winning all five sets en route to a perfect 3-0 start. Nadal won the last two sets for the Aces. Fans would have to wait a few sets to see Nadal take the court, but the Aces were rolling right off the bat. Rohan Bopanna and Sania Mirza got the ball rolling with a 6-4 win over the two-time major champions Daniel Nestor and Kristina Mladenovic. Bopanna and Mirza were blowing the ball by their opponents, hitting six aces and 13 winners past the Canadian-French combo.

Sam Stosur doubled the lead in the women’s singles, taking down the combination of Ana Ivanovic and Mladenovic by a score of 6-3. Mladenovic was subbed in mid-match for Ivanovic. In a set dominated by errors, Stosur was a little more solid. She limited herself to nine errors compared to Ivanovic and Mladenovic’s combined eleven. The Australian also was a little better on break points, converting two out of five. Ivanovic and Mladenovic could only convert one out of five. Fabrice Santoro gave the Aces a strangle-hold on the tie when he took advantage of fourteen unforced errors from Goran Ivanisevic to claim the set 6-3 and give the aces an 18-10 lead.

Rafael Nadal (left) and Ivan Dodig (right) during their doubles match/Photo: IPTL

Then it was the time for the fans to get what they had been waiting for as Rafael Nadal took the court alongside Ivan Dodig. The duo clinched the tie with a 6-3 win over Daniel Nestor and Tomas Berdych. The Aces' pair were perfect on break points, saving all five break points that they faced, including three deciding points. With the win, the Aces held an insurmountable 24-13 lead, meaning Nadal’s singles match against Tomas Berdych was essentially a dead rubber. However, no one told the two rivals. Berdych, who broke a 17 match losing streak to Nadal this year, came out swinging hard. The Czech blasted 13 winners past the world number five. Berdcyh also gifted Nadal with 17 unforced errors. Both men were one for three on break points and the set required a tiebreak. Nadal completed his dream debut by claiming the tiebreak 7-5 to give the Aces the sweep.

Philippines Mavericks - Japan Warriors

The Japan Warriors got to play their first three ties on home court in Japan and could not get the win. After losing yesterday, the Warriors were still looking for their first win. However, some strong play early from the home-standing Philippines Mavericks kept the Warriors winless. The Mavericks held on for a 25-21 victory to move to 3-1.

Mark Philippoussis gave the Mavericks an ideal start as he cruised past Swedish Davis Cup captain Thomas Enqvist. The two-time Grand Slam runner-up was bolstered by seven aces and 13 winners, as he blasted his way to a 6-2 win. The Warriors would bounce right back in the men’s singles tie as Philipp Kohlschreiber took down this year’s Wimbledon semifinalist Richard Gasquet. Kohlschreiber was dominant in his ground game, smoking 13 winners to a mere four unforced errors. He saved the lone break point he faced, while converting one of his own to claim the set 6-3 and close the overall gap to 9-8.

The Philippine Mavericks bench/Photo: IPTL

The third set saw the powerful singles players Milos Raonic and Serena Williams pair up for the Mavericks to take on Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Mirjana Lucic-Baroni for the Warriors. Raonic and Williams found their power being relatively ineffective as they were limited to one ace and seven winners in the set. However, they were perfect defending break points as they saved both that they faced. They would convert one of two break chances to take the set 6-4.

Williams then stayed on the court to battle in a crucial women’s singles match against Kurumi Nara. The 21-time Grand Slam champion was too much for the 23-year-old Japanese, who was subbed out for Lucic-Baroni. The substation made little difference as Williams rolled to the 6-3 win. That gave the Mavericks a hefty 21-15 lead. Leander Paes and Pierre-Hugues Herbert needed to win 6-0 just to even the match, while Edouard Roger-Vasselin and Treat Huey only needed to win one game to clinch the tie. They got that one game, although the Warriors would take the set 6-4 to bring the match back to a respectable final score of 25-21. The Mavericks are now in second behind the Indian Aces. The Warriors remain at the bottom of the table at 0-5.