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Tennis: Slammers rally in Singapore to close in on IPTL leaders

World No. 1 Serena Williams – cheered on by Andre Agassi, Lleyton Hewitt and other teammates – edged Caroline Wozniacki 6-5 after a ‘shootout’ to help the Singapore Slammers beat the UAE Royals 27-25. Photo: AFP.

World No. 1 Serena Williams – cheered on by Andre Agassi, Lleyton Hewitt and other Singapore Slammers teammates – edged Caroline Wozniacki 6-5 after a ‘shootout’ to help the hosts beat the UAE Royals 27-25. Photo: AFP.

December 5, 2014: Hosts DBS Singapore Slammers edged the Musafir.com UAE Royals 27-25 on Thursday night to record a second straight nailbiting win in the Coca-Cola IPTL and close the gap on the top three after the second leg in Singapore.

 

Micromax Indian Aces suffered a second straight loss in Singapore, but still head to the third leg in Delhi as leaders with 20 points, having won their first four matches. UAE Royals and Manila Mavericks are both on 17 after three wins each and Singapore Slammers moved up to 14 after another crowd-pleasing win at the Singapore Indoor Stadium.

 

The Slammers had earlier endured a torrid time, losing all three matches in Manila and their opener at home, but turned their fortunes around with a thrilling 24-23 win over Indian Aces on Wednesday night before defeating the Royals.

 

World No. 1 Serena Williams put the Slammers in the lead with a gripping 6-5 win over close friend and Caroline Wozniacki, with the American hitting a winner with only seconds remaining to win the five-minute shootout. Williams, 33, carried her form into the second set as she teamed up with World No. 7 Tomas Berdych to defeat Nenad Zimonjic and Kristina Mladenovic 6-4 in the mixed doubles.

 

Pat Rafter replaced Andre Agassi as the Slammers representative in the past champions’ singles, but the 41-year-old Australian lost 6-4 to Goran Ivanisevic as the hosts’ lead was cut to one game.

 

Berdych then gave the home team a huge boost when he beat US Open champion Marin Cilic 6-4 to open up a three-game buffer before former No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt and young Aussie compatriot Nick Kyrgios lost 6-5 to Cilic and Zimonjic, doing enough to wrap up the team win.

 

Williams won all four of her singles sets since joining the Slammers for the last day in Manila and was full of praise for the format of the groundbreaking event, in which the five-set team matches are sped up by no-advantage games and a 20-second shot clock on serves.

 

“What a great experience. Emotionally I’m so excited. It’s so much fun out there. It was one of the best things I’ve done in my life,” said Williams, who won October’s WTA Finals on her last visit to Singapore.

 

“I’ve had so much fun. I love playing in the IPTL and the team spirit was just incredible. I’ve really bought into it. I’ve bonded with my teammates. We really love each other and I want to keep going. It’s so fun.”

 

Agassi, 44, joined the team for the Singapore leg, but after losing his first two past champions’ singles matches, was happy to give way to Rafter in Thursday’s match against big-serving Ivanisevic.

 

“I had to contribute somehow, so we got together before to discuss the particular strategy and it was pretty clear the match up with Rafter was a much better chance to win the most amount of games, if not the set. I thought it was a high-quality match. The whole competition today was of a great standard,” said Agassi, the eight-time Grand Slam champion.

 

“It was a great experience, being around the team and the players, the environment. We really have a strong bond, being out there rooting them on and off the court. It’s a great experience and our two wins came down to nail-biters, which always adds to the drama.”

 

World No. 5 Ana Ivanovic beat Kirsten Flipkens 6-2, but leaders Indian Aces eventually lost 25-20 to the Manila Mavericks. Photo: Getty Images.

World No. 5 Ana Ivanovic beat Kirsten Flipkens 6-2, but leaders Indian Aces lost to Manila Mavericks. Photo: Getty Images.

In the earlier match, Manila Mavericks consigned Indian Aces to a second straight win, beating the leaders 25-20. Mark Philippoussis, 38, continued his winning run with a 6-4 win over Cedric Pioline in the past champions’ singles, before women’s World No. 5 Ana Ivanovic put the Aces ahead with a 6-2 win over Kirsten Flipkens.

 

Flipkens and Daniel Nestor then beat Rohan Bopanna and Sania Mirza 6-2 in the mixed doubles, consigning the Indian duo to their first defeat in the IPTL. Filipino player-coach Treat Huey and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga beat Bopanna and Gael Monfils 6-2 in the men’s doubles to stretch the Aces’ lead, before Monfils reduced the deficit with a 6-5 win over Tsonga in an all-French clash.

 

Winning teams earn four points, while losing teams earn two points if they win at least 20 games, one point for winning at least 10 games and no points if they win less than 10 games.

 

Coca-Cola IPTL presented by Qatar Airways (after Singapore leg)

Pos.     Team                                      M         W         D         L          Pts

1.         Micromax Indian Aces            6          4          0          2          20

2.         Musafir.com UAE Royals        6          3          0          3          17

3.         Manila Mavericks                    6          3          0          3          17

4.         DBS Singapore Slammers      6          2          0          4          14

 

Results: Singapore (Leg 2)

02/12/2014:     Micromax Indian Aces 30-11 Musafir.com UAE Royals

02/12/2014:     DBS Singapore Slammers 19-27 Manila Mavericks

03/12/2014:     Manila Mavericks 21-26 Musafir.com UAE Royals

03/12/2014:     DBS Singapore Slammers 24-23 Micromax Indian Aces

04/12/2014:     Manila Mavericks 25-20 Micromax Indian Aces

04/12/2014:     DBS Singapore Slammers 27-25 Musafir.com UAE Royals

 

Results: Manila (Leg 1)

28/11/2014:     Micromax Indian Aces 26-16 DBS Singapore Slammers

28/11/2014:     Manila Mavericks 24-29 Musafir.com UAE Royals

29/11/2014:     Musafir.com UAE Royals 28-22 DBS Singapore Slammers

29/11/2014:     Manila Mavericks 15-24 Micromax Indian Aces

30/11/2014:     Musafir.com UAE Royals 20-28 Micromax Indian Aces

30/11/2014:     Manila Mavericks 27-19 DBS Singapore Slammers

 

Source: DBS Singapore Slammers (www.singaporeslammers.com); Editing by SportAsia

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