IPTL: Singapore Slammers grab second finals spot
The Slammers celebrate during their final-day round robin win. Photo: IPTL

After seven days of round robin play, there was still one spot in the 2016 IPTL final up for grabs, and it all came down to two teams doing battle for the chance to take on the Indian Aces on Sunday. The round robin came to a close on Saturday in India as two teams saw their tournaments end, one with a crushing defeat, and one with a surprising victory.

Singapore Slammers 30 – 20 Japan Warriors

The goal for both Singapore Slammers and Japan Warriors was simple entering their round robin clash on Sunday: win. Whoever won the match would claim the second finals spot. As has often been the case for the Slammers throughout the last two weeks, Carlos Moya got the team off to a strong start, edging Marat Safin for the early lead. Kiki Bertens then consolidated with a 6-3 win over Kurumi Nara, stretching the lead to five points after two sets.

Kiki Bertens (right facing) and Marcelo Melo (left facing) victorious in mixed doubles. Photo: IPTL
Kiki Bertens (right facing) and Marcelo Melo (left facing) victorious in mixed doubles. Photo: IPTL

Jean-Julien Rojer and Jelena Jankovic would do their best to claw some points back, but ended up falling in a tiebreak to Bertens and Marcelo Melo, as the Slammers stretched their lead to a full set, six points, with only two sets left to play. Melo and Nick Kyrgios would take a stranglehold on the set for the Slammers in the doubles, which they won 6-3 to all but clinch the finals berth. The men’s singles was still to play, but the Slammers’ Marcos Baghdatis was the favourite against debutant Prajnesh Gunneswaran, who was competing in his first day of IPTL action. The newbie needed to win the set by ten games if he hoped to keep the Warriors season alive, but fell well short, as Baghdatis took the set 6-3 to complete the sweep and send the defending champions into the final.

UAE Royals 24 – 20 Indian Aces

There was nothing on the line except for pride in the final match of the round robin, as the Aces had already clinched first place in the group, while the UAE Royals were doomed to finish last. Still, the Royals were the team getting off to the quicker start, as Thomas Johansson raced past Mark Philippoussis 6-2. Kirsten Flipkens would nearly erase that lead in the second set, as she topped Ana Ivanovic 6-3 to close the gap to one. Despite their home court advantage, local favourites Rohan Bopanna and Sania Mirza fell short in their mixed doubles set, losing 6-3 to Daniel Nestor and Martina Hingis, who re-established the four-point lead for the Royals.

The Royals celebrate their final win of the 2016 IPTL. Photo: IPTL
The Royals celebrate their final win of the 2016 IPTL. Photo: IPTL

Bopanna would get his revenge on Nestor in the fourth set, as the Aces’ pair of Bopanna and Ivan Dodig took out Nestor and Pablo Cuevas 6-3 to close the score to within a point entering the fifth and deciding set. It was winner take all in the men’s singles and the Royals entered with the massive advantage, sending world number ten Tomas Berdych onto court against doubles specialist Dodig. Not surprisingly, Berdych would get the job done for the Royals, taking the final set 6-3, ending their season on a high note while the Aces will go into the final on the heels of a loss.

The season is now over for the Warriors and Royals. The final will be contested tomorrow between the Aces and defending champion Slammers.