Indian Aces lose to Singapore Slammers in dress rehearsal of IPTL final

Indian Aces lose to Singapore Slammers in dress rehearsal of IPTL final

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It was the defending champions Indian Aces' second loss in a row – this time to Singapore Slammers 21-27. But they rested a lot of their key players having already booked a place in the final of this season's International Premier Tennis League (IPTL) at Singapore where they will again face the Singapore Slammers.

The last time Singapore Slammers and the Indian Aces faced each other, the match ended 22-27 in favour of the defending champions, and Carlos Moya defeated Fabrice Santoro in a hard-fought encounter 6-5. However, the Spaniard was much more dominant in today's game as he won the one-sided tie 6-2 against Santoro, who looks like he is yet to recover properly from his illness.

In the men's singles tie, Stan Wawrinka faced Bernard Tomic, and it was a match-up between two players with exquisite backhands – one single-handed and the other double-handed. Tomic dominated the opening stages of the set, with his backhand and forehand slices troubling the Swiss star.

23-year-old Tomic broke Wawrinka's serve and went 2-0 into the lead. However, the former World No.3 broke back immediately by winning a power point at 40-30 on Tomic's serve. The duo exchanged breaks one more time, before the hard-fought contest went into shootout. Wawrinka raised his game in the crunch stage and Tomic just could not match him, as he lost the shootout 7-4, and with it the set at 5-6.

Former French and US Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova made her debut in the competition for the Indian Aces, and she looked rusty from the start. The 30-year-old, who has struggled with her form and fitness in the later stages of her career, was broken in the first game by 18-year-old Belinda Bencic.

However, the Russian star showed fight in the next game and forced Bencic to defend three break points, which the teenager did successfully. With Bencic leading 2-0, the Slammers reached the 14-game mark for the match, officially qualifying them for the final, against the Indian Aces. The rest of the set finished in a breeze as Bencic brushed aside Kuznetsova 6-2.

In the mixed doubles tie, Rohan Bopanna and Sania Mirza won a closely fought tie 6-4 against Dustin Brown and Karolina Pliskova. At 2-1, the Indian pair failed to capitalize on two break points on Brown's serve. The fans were treated to some wonderful exchanges at the nets, with Sania match Brown shot for shot.

Finally, in the seventh game of the set, Mirza and Bopanna gained four breakpoints at 40-0 and Pliskova's double fault handed them over the break they were looking for. Mirza consolidated the break in her service game and Bopanna followed it up by serving out the tie.

The men's doubles tie which followed this encounter, turned out to be one of the most entertaining battles in the tournament so far. Aces' team of Bopanna and Ivan Dodig faced Marcelo Melo and Nick Kyrgios. Both the teams did not allow too many chances to their opponents on their service games. The teams produced some breathtaking rallies, which had everything – from lobbed shots, smashes, drop shots, volleys, winners on the run.

At 5-5, the match went into shootout and Bopanna came alive when it really mattered. The teams were tied at 6-6 in the shootout, which is a race to seven. In the deciding point, after Melo somehow managed to return three smashes from Dodig, Bopanna took over in the fourth attempt and smashed it into the crowd.

Indian Aces might have lost the tie, but the final, which will be played in Singapore on December 20 at 13:30 IST, could be a different story with all of their key players returning to the line-up.

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