Indian Aces’ title defence came to a halt in the final hurdle as Singapore Slammers won the hard-fought final 26-21 at Singapore on Sunday.
Carlos Moya came into this game with a very aggressive game plan. The Spaniard went for a lot of quick winners in the rallies, which also meant that he made a lot of unforced errors. In order to deal with Santoro’s backhand slices, Moya played quite a few points from the nets, and in the 6th game of the tie, he broke Santoro’s serve.
Santoro was left frustrated as Moya continued to nail all his approach shots, and the Frenchman, at one point, lost his cool and threw his racket to the ground. Indian Aces called for a timeout, in order to calm down Santoro, and it worked, at least initially. Santoro produced couple of delightful backhand winners down the line to break back on Moya’s serve at 4-3.
However, a double fault by Santoro gave Moya four breakpoints in the next game, which the 39-year-old grabbed with both hands. The Frenchman managed to bring the match back on serve at 5-4 with another break of serve, but in the crucial 10th game, the Slammers used the power point at 30-15. After some quick exchanges at the net, Moya found the passing shot which handed over the set to him at 6-4.
In the second tie, the young and talented Belinda Bencic faced former French Open and US Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova. She had cruised to an easy win over the aged Kuznetsova in their previous meeting in the tournament, but the champion showed that she still has a bit of fight left in her today.
The 30-year-old broke Bencic’s serve in the opening game, and that set the tone for the rest of the set. The ladies exchanged service breaks, till Bencic finally managed to hold serve at 2-2.
The 18-year-old started to dominate from the baseline from that point as her confidence grew. Kuznetsova barely managed to keep up with her, as she was out-muscled and out-manoeuvred by her opponent. However, the Russian star showed her immense experience and managed to win most of the big points of the tie. Eventually the match went to a shoot-out at 5-5, which ended up being a one-sided affair. Bencic won the shoot-out 7-3 to win the tie 6-5.
The next tie saw the Indian pair of Sania Mirza and Rohan Bopanna broken in the first game by Dustin Brown and Karolina Pliskova, but they broke back immediately with Bopanna producing a winner at the nets.
The Aces mixed doubles pair broke Pliskova’s serve and Bopanna consolidated the lead with some world-class serving – which including two aces and an un-returnable cannon ball of a serve – to go 4-1. With the Indian Aces level on overall points with the Slammers at 14-14, Bopanna decided to take the power point at 30-15 in the eighth game of the set. The Indian star followed it up with a stunning forehand winner down the line to win the set 6-2.
The victory put the Aces in the lead at 16-14.
Stan Wawrinka and Bernanrd Tomic next faced each other in the men’s singles tie, and the Swiss ace delivered a master class. He set the court on fire with his serving and delivered his trademark single- handed back hand winners and some wonderful variations from the baseline to win the set 6-3.
While heading into the final tie of the match, the Aces were trailing the Slammers 18-20 and were in desperate need of some magic from their men’s doubles pair of Ivan Dodig and Rohan Bopanna. However, Marcelo Melo and Wawrinka shut out any hopes of a comeback on the night as they won the tie 6-3, and with it the match at 26-21, to lift their first IPTL crown.