Tennis: Slammers can be new aces

OUE Singapore Slammers' Stan Wawrinka started slowly against Micromax Indian Aces' Bernard Tomic but eventually found his groove to prevail 6-5.
OUE Singapore Slammers' Stan Wawrinka started slowly against Micromax Indian Aces' Bernard Tomic but eventually found his groove to prevail 6-5.ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

Singapore side go into final against defending champs with morale boost after 27-21 victory

Gone was Roger Federer, the Swiss most had hoped to see but all the home crowd needed yesterday at the Singapore Indoor Stadium was the one Swiss who stayed behind.

Led by Stan Wawrinka, the OUE Singapore Slammers beat Micromax Indian Aces 27-21 to book a place in today's final, showing their intent in wresting the league title from the defending champions whom they will face again at 4pm.

The Slammers had gone into the tie last night with one foot in the finale, after the Obi UAE Royals' chances were hit by losing 23-24 to the Philippine Mavericks earlier.

The Royals finish this season third on the standings, followed by the Mavericks and the Legendari Japan Warriors.

Despite being in the driver's seat and without the burden of pressure, Wawrinka started his men's singles match against Australian Bernard Tomic slowly and almost lost after going 2-5 down.

But the two-time Grand Slam champion, and arguably the biggest name playing last night, won the next three games.

He forced - and won - the shoot-out, taking the match 6-5.

Said the world No. 4: "It wasn't great but I had good energy from the bench.

"It's great for us to be in the final and I hope everyone comes out to support us. It's great atmosphere."

With Carlos Moya having earned a 6-2 victory in the first tie against Fabrice Santoro, the Slammers had earned their spot in the final by the time Belinda Bencic overcame Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-2 in the women's singles.

It meant a relaxed Singapore bench and a satisfied home crowd rhythmically tapping to the music with the clappers many of them had in hand.

Still, that did not stop the home team from trying to rack up an even better win-loss percentage of games yesterday.

Said Bencic: "We showed through the three weeks that we're capable... we deserve it."

Indeed, the Aces have lost only three ties since the season started at the beginning of the month, with two of those defeats coming against the Slammers.

Said Nick Kyrgios: "We didn't hold anything back (today) and both teams played well.

"We just know that they're the top team. I don't expect anything different tomorrow. Everyone's going to be on the bench cheering.

The doubles will likely be where the Aces' biggest strengths lie, with Indian pair Rohan Bopanna and Sania Mirza beating Dustin Brown and Karolina Pliskova 6-4 in the mixed doubles.

Bopanna then teamed up with Ivan Dodig in the men's doubles in a close fight against Marcelo Melo and Kyrgios of the Slammers, winning 6-5 only after a shoot-out.

Said Dodig: "It will be even more tense on the court tomorrow.

"All of us will try to put on our best tennis and it will be great."

IPTL, SINGAPORE

Final: Singtel TV Ch115 & StarHub Ch209, 4pm

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on December 20, 2015, with the headline 'Slammers can be new aces'. Print Edition | Subscribe