The 2016 International Premier Tennis League season kicked off on Friday in Tokyo. With only four teams this year, they were all in action, getting their campaigns underway. The UAE Royals kicked off the action against the Singapore Slammers, while the host Japan Warriors took on the Indian Aces. Here’s what happened on day one of the 2016 IPTL.
UAE Royals 29 - 19 Singapore Slammers
The UAE Royals kicked off their campaigns in style with a dominant win over the Serena Williams-less Singapore Slammers. Goran Ivanisevic set the tone early in the opening set, storming past a pair of legends to give the Royals an early lead. Rainer Schuettler started the set for the Slammers, but was subbed out midway through for former world number one Carlos Moya. The Spaniard could not salvage it, as Ivanisevic hung on to take it 6-3. Martina Hingis made an impressive start to singles, which has not been her discipline of late, blowing past Kiki Bertens 6-1 to put the Royals in command.
Needing a win to keep the tie close, Nick Kyrgios made his return after spending the last month of the ATP season on the sidelines with a suspension. The Aussie was engaged in a big-hitting battle with world number ten Tomas Berdych. There was nothing between the two men through nine games, as neither surrendered their serve until the final game, when Kyrgios finally blinked. Berdych would break to take the set 6-4, the lone break of the set, to give the Royals a stranglehold on the tie.
Heading into the doubles, the Slammers needed essentially needed to win both remaining sets by minimizing the number of games won by the Royals to have any chance of stealing the tie. But Daniel Nestor and Pablo Cuevas delivered a massive blow, breaking midway through the doubles and hanging on to give the Royals a 24-11 lead going into the mixed doubles. This meant that not only did the Slammers need to win the set, once they hit six games, they couldn’t lose another until the caught up. Marcelo Melo and Bertens took the set for the Slammers 6-4, meaning they had to win 11 straight games to send the tie to a tiebreak. They would only manage two before Nestor and Hingis closed out the victory.
Indian Aces 30 – 17 Japan Warriors
The home fans were met with disappointment on Friday, as the host Japan Warriors were blown out by the Indian Aces. The Warriors were without their home hero, Kei Nishikori, and struggled to get anything done in their opening tie. Things got off to a bad start for the hosts as their lone local in action, Kurumi Nara, was blown out 6-2 in the first set by Kirsten Flipkens. The mixed doubles followed and the Warriors’ Jean-Julien Rojer and Jelena Jankovic did well to hang with the formidable pair of Rohan Bopanna and Sania Mirza, but in the end, India’s favourite Aces got the job done in a tight tiebreak 7-5 to take control of the tie.
In the legends set, Mark Philippoussis delivered a big blow by taking out Marat Safin 6-3 in a hard-hitting affair, meaning that the Warriors would have to win both remaining sets by wide margins to claim the victory. A dominant performance in the doubles from Ivan Dodig and Feliciano Lopez for the Aces put the Warriors backs up against the wall in the men’s singles. Lopez only needed to send the set to a tiebreak to seal the tie for the aces and he did just that, rallying from an early break down against Fernando Verdasco and hanging on to force a breaker at 5-5, which he won to complete the sweep for the Aces.
Action continues in Tokyo tomorrow with the Aces taking on the Slammers, with the Warriors look to turn things around against the Royals.