Tennis: Singapore new champs of IPTL

Stan Wawrinka (above) showed his pedigree when he won his singles and doubles matches yesterday to help the Singapore Slammers (left) win this year's IPTL and give home fans plenty to shout about.
Stan Wawrinka showed his pedigree when he won his singles and doubles matches yesterday to help the Singapore Slammers (above) win this year's IPTL and give home fans plenty to shout about. ST PHOTOS: ONG WEE JIN
Stan Wawrinka (above) showed his pedigree when he won his singles and doubles matches yesterday to help the Singapore Slammers (left) win this year's IPTL and give home fans plenty to shout about.
Stan Wawrinka (above) showed his pedigree when he won his singles and doubles matches yesterday to help the Singapore Slammers win this year's IPTL and give home fans plenty to shout about.

Slammers, last in 2014, beat defending champs Aces in final to complete turnaround

Twelve months was all it took for the OUE Singapore Slammers to mastermind a total turnaround and secure their first International Premier Tennis League (IPTL) title.

The Singapore-based franchise had finished last among the four teams in last year's inaugural season. However, they were celebrating a stunning reversal in fortunes yesterday when they defeated defending champions Micromax Indian Aces in the final.

The hosts, led by world No. 4 Stan Wawrinka, won four of the five one-set matches to post a 26-21 victory and the perfect homecoming present for the local fans inside the Singapore Indoor Stadium.

Said Australian Nick Kyrgios, the only surviving member from the 2014 squad: "Last year, we had some good players but maybe not the same chemistry as this group.

"We all got along really well from Day 1 and there was a lot of energy around the team. Win or lose, we were always behind our teammates."

This was the third victory in a row for the Slammers over the Aces this campaign. It had begun on Dec 2 in Kobe, Japan and included stops in Manila, New Delhi and Dubai.

Saturday's 27-21 round-robin triumph secured their place in the championship decider.

It was also a memorable IPTL debut for Wawrinka. He was drafted into the team following the late withdrawal of world No. 1 Novak Djokovic. The 2015 French Open champion won both his singles and doubles matches yesterday.

"I had a really great experience and this is one more title for 2015. The team did an amazing job in the previous cities and I'm quite lucky to arrive for the last few matches and help win a few games," he said.

The IPTL may be a mixed-team exhibition tournament but the desire to win for both sets of finalists was apparent right from the opening legends' singles match.

Former world No. 1 Carlos Moya gave the Slammers an early lead with a 6-4 win over Fabrice Santoro, whose frustration saw him slam his racket onto the ground.

Team-mate and rising Swiss star Belinda Bencic continued the momentum for the Slammers in the women's singles. She edged out two-time Grand Slam champion Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-5 (7-3) to give the hosts a 12-9 advantage.

That lead was quickly erased in the mixed doubles though when the Aces' pair of Sania Mirza and Rohan Bopanna notched a 6-2 triumph over Karolina Pliskova and Dustin Brown.

That result saw the Indian side go 15-14 in front.

Needing a big performance from their marquee player, the Slammers were not disappointed as Wawrinka unleashed six aces and stamped his class with a 6-3 win over Australian Bernard Tomic in the men's singles.

The Swiss then partnered Marcelo Melo, ranked first in men's doubles, to an emphatic 6-3 victory over Ivan Dodig and Bopanna to clinch the golden racket-shaped trophy and US$1 million (S$1.41 million) winners' cheque.

It was the perfect final and finish to the 2015 season, said IPTL founder Mahesh Bhupathi.

"There was a lot of scepticism last year but we had great crowds over all three days here in Singapore.

"I'm pretty sure the fans will be looking forward to the league coming back every season," he added.

Organisers estimated that the three-day event attracted about 24,000 fans, slightly down on last year's 27,250.

For the team who later changed into red and white polo shirts that bore the words "Champions 2015" on the front, a return to the Republic next year is on the cards.

Said Wawrinka: "The atmosphere was fantastic and, hopefully, we can come back next year to defend our title."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 21, 2015, with the headline 'SINGAPORE NEW CHAMPS OF IPTL'. Print Edition | Subscribe