IPTL: Indian Aces book finals berth on home soil
The Indian Aces celebrate their win on Friday. Photo: IPTL

The 2016 IPTL season entered the home stretch on Friday as the venue shifted to Indian for the final three days of action. The schedule pitted the same teams against each other as yesterday with the top and bottom teams battling in out on Friday. Entering Saturday, only one finals spot is still up for grabs as the Indian Aces clinched a spot in the final on home soil on Friday. Here’s what happened on day seven of the IPTL.

Japan Warriors 25 – 20 UAE Royals

After a slow start, the Japan Warriors were coming on strong late in the ITPL season, but had but pushed hard by the UAE Royals the previous day. Looking to take early control, Marat Safin, who had been struggling in the IPTL, came up big in the opening set to take down Goran Ivanisevic and claim the early lead for the Warriors. However, Ana Ivanovic would take it right back, blowing out Kurumi Nara 6-1 to put the Royals ahead.

The doubles teams high five during their set on Friday. Photo: IPTL
The doubles teams high five during their set on Friday. Photo: IPTL

Jean-Julien Rojer and Jelena Jankovic would bounce back for the Warriors, edging a tiebreak 7-5 in the third set to close the gap to within a point with two sets to play. For the men’s doubles, the Royals went with Tomas Berdych rather than Daniel Nestor alongside Pablo Cuevas and the decision did not pay off, as they were blown off the court 6-0 by Rojer and Fernando Verdasco as the Warriors took a five-game lead entering the final set. Berdych was going to need to make up for his struggles in the doubles, but while he managed to claim the fifth set to force overtime, Verdasco came up big, holding the first game to end the set and hand the match to the Royals.

Indian Aces 24 – 19 Singapore Slammers

The match between the Aces and the Singapore Slammers yesterday was the closest match of the IPTL so far this season. It did not appear that the Indian fans would get the same treat, although they were probably far happier with the early results of the rematch as the Aces would race to a massive early lead. First, it was Ivan Dodig and Feliciano Lopez taking the opening set 6-2 to put the Aces in control early. Lopez then came up huge in his rematch with Nick Kyrgios, which had decided the match yesterday in a tiebreak. After their fifth set came down to the wire on Thursday, Lopez blew out the Aussie 6-0 to give the Aces a 10-point lead after only two sets.

Nick Kyrgios reacts during his blowout singles loss. Photo: IPTL
Nick Kyrgios reacts during his blowout singles loss. Photo: IPTL

Kiki Bertens would start to claw back for the Slammers, as she won the third set 6-2 to cut down the deficit. The ever-reliable Carlos Moya managed to edge Thomas Enqvist 6-4 in the fourth set for the Slammers, closing the gap to 18-14 entering the all-deciding fifth set of mixed doubles. Needing to win the set to stay alive, Marcos Baghdatis and Bertens could not pull away for the Slammers and were faced with a must-win tiebreak to have any hope of scrounging a victory. They would fall short, as Rohan Bopanna and Sania Mirza were the heroes on home soil, dominating the tiebreak to seal the win and a spot in the final for the Aces.

With the win, the Aces have clinched a spot in Sunday’s final. The schedule works out perfectly as the Aces will play the Royals, who were eliminated with Friday’s loss, on Saturday. The Slammers and the Warriors will do battle for the final spot in the final tomorrow, winner take all.