By Michael Angelo S. Murillo

IPTL final leg fires off in Dubai today

Posted on December 11, 2014

THE FINAL LEG of the inaugural International Premier Tennis League (IPTL) begins today in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, with the host team hoping to be propelled by the energy of the hometown crowd to get itself to the top and be crowned the league’s first-ever champion.

Roger Federer of the Micromax Indian Aces hits a return to Tomas Berdych of the Singapore Slammers during their men’s singles match at the International Premier Tennis League (IPTL) in New Delhi, Dec. 7. -- Reuters
After three legs in three cities, the Micromax Indian Aces continue to lead the standings with a record of six wins and three losses and 30 total points. Hot on their trail are the UAE Royals and Manila Mavericks which have identical 5-4 records and 27 points. Running fourth are the DBS Singapore Slammers with a 2-7 card and 17 total points.

Leading the charge for the Royals’ last-leg push is men’s world number one player Novak Djokovic of Serbia, who made his IPTL debut on the final day of the previous leg in Delhi, India.

Djokovic is joined by former women’s world number one Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark, Kristina Mladenovic of France, Marin Cilic and Goran Ivanisevic of Croatia, Malek Jaziri of Tunisia and Nenad Zimonjic of Serbia.

The world number one played two matches in his IPTL debut -- men’s doubles and men’s singles -- against the Aces and lost both times, although by very close margins of 6-5 each time. His team, however, won the overall battle, 29-22.

He first lost in the men’s doubles along with Zimonjic, dropping to the duo of Swiss world number two Roger Federer and French Gael Monfils, before losing to Federer in the men’s singles.

Despite the early losses, Djokovic remains confident that in Dubai he can get back on the winning track and help his team in its push for the title.

He also has been fascinated by the IPTL’s innovative format, saying “I hope the league continues and I really look forward to come back next year. I think the format is fun and fast...”

The most steady team in the league so far, the Aces have positioned themselves in a good spot to win all.

Bannered by Federer, Pete Sampras of the United States, Monfils, Ana Ivanovic of Serbia, Sania Mirza and Rohan Bopanna India and Fabrice Santoro of France, the Aces have been a tough crew to crack. Federer, however, will not be around in Dubai but they remain as a favorite under the stewardship of player-coach Santoro.

After a rough start that saw them lose two of three matches here in Manila in the opening leg, the Mavericks have since picked things up, winning four of their last six matches to stay within striking distance of the leaders.

Andy Murray of Great Britain and Maria Sharapova of Russia, who led the group here two weeks ago are no longer with the team, but the Manila squad is holding its own on the efforts of Mark Philippoussis of Australia, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France, Kirsten Flipkens of Belgium, Daniel Nestor of Canada and Filipino-American Treat Huey.

The Slammers, for their part, have had a rough inaugural IPTL season but still a lot of pride in them to remain dangerous in the last stretch.

Czech world number seven Tomas Berdych continues to lead the team composed of Lleyton Hewitt, Nick Krygios and Patrick Rafter of Australia, Bruno Soares of Brazil and Daniela Hantuchova of Slovakia. Serena Williams and Andre Agassi of the US also played for the team in previous legs.

A brainchild of Indian doubles legend Mahesh Bhupati, the IPTL is an innovative tournament, with tweaks introduced in scoring and tie breaks,among others, designed to make the game more fast-paced and attractive to tennis aficionados and even to those who are not.

The tweaks, organizers say, are not aimed at supplanting established rules, but more of “breaking the code” of tennis.