IPTL Singapore: 'Rusty' Federer the lynchpin for Royals

Tennis royalty Roger Federer is a natural crowd-pleaser at the Singapore Indoor Stadium with his playing style and personality.
Tennis royalty Roger Federer is a natural crowd-pleaser at the Singapore Indoor Stadium with his playing style and personality.ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

Enthusiastic reception for Swiss superstar as he registers two victories against Slammers

He might have been representing the away team and facing the Singapore Slammers in their own backyard here.

However, there was no doubting who the local crowd had come to see as Roger Federer made his much-anticipated International Premier Tennis League (IPTL) debut in Singapore.

And the 17-time Grand Slam champion did not disappoint his legion of fans at the Singapore Indoor Stadium. He displayed his full repertoire of shot-making skills as he won two of his three matches to lead his Obi UAE Royals to a 27-23 victory against the hosts.

The mere sight of the 34-year-old Swiss was enough to elicit screams from the thousands of spectators.

 

One fan who caught Federer's headband during his warm-up was soon passing it around his friends as they posed for wefies with the souvenir headgear.

Said Federer, who beat his compatriot Stan Wawrinka 6-4 in the fifth and deciding men's singles match: "It's been a great experience playing in front of this crowd.

"I'm happy I came out here and I had a blast.

"The match against Stan was tough, plenty of high-quality points. I'm just happy to be able to get the win for my team. Everyone played really well tonight.

"I was a bit rusty, just coming off holiday... But this was the best I felt and to get two wins for my team was great."

This was his fourth appearance in the five-leg, multi-city IPTL and Federer said it would also be his final match of the competition, which concludes tomorrow with the final.

Last year's champions, Micromax Indian Aces, have already qualified for the showpiece, with the other slot still up for grabs between the Royals and the Slammers.

Said two-time Grand Slam winner Wawrinka, who was making his IPTL debut: "This was my first experience of it and it was great fun.

"The format is very fast and you need to focus on the big points.

"Roger played last year and he told me about it and said how it might be an exhibition but you still need to focus very hard to win."

It was the Royals who drew first blood last night as big-serving Goran Ivanisevic dispatched Carlos Moya 6-4.

Team-mate Kristina Mladenovic had a less straightforward task but she recovered from 3-5 down to edge Karolina Pliskova 6-5 (6).

Dustin Brown gave the home side something other than Federer to cheer about when his ace secured a 6-3 win for him and Pliskova against Federer and Mladenovic in the mixed doubles to level the scores at 15-15.

But Federer regrouped quickly in the next match as he and Daniel Nestor won 6-4 in the men's doubles against Nick Kyrgios and Marcelo Melo.

Despite the absence of Federer, the Royals can call upon the expertise of US Open winner Marin Cilic as they face the Mavericks in today's first tie.

The Slammers will be hoping to bounce back from this defeat with a convincing display against league leaders Aces, who have Bernard Tomic and Sania Mirza on their roster, and secure the spot in tomorrow's final.

IPTL, SINGAPORE

Mavericks v Royals: Singtel TV Ch115 & StarHub Ch209, 4pm

Slammers v Aces: 7.30pm

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 19, 2015, with the headline ''Rusty' Federer the Lynchpin for Royals'. Print Edition | Subscribe