Djokovic’s UAE Royals keep Indian Aces in sight at Dubai

The IPTL leaders had earlier strengthened their place atop the standings with a 28-24 win over Singapore Slammers.
From right, Novak Djokovic and Caroline Wozniacki celebrate as teammates Nenad Zimonjic and Marin Cilic seal the win for UAE Royals. Clive Brunskill / Getty Images
From right, Novak Djokovic and Caroline Wozniacki celebrate as teammates Nenad Zimonjic and Marin Cilic seal the win for UAE Royals. Clive Brunskill / Getty Images

DUBAI // World No 1 Novak Djokovic lost his first set at Dubai’s International Premier Tennis League last night, but the Serbian’s UAE Royals managed to hold secure a narrow victory and keep the pressure on the league-leading Indian Aces.

With two days remaining in the inaugural season of the International Premier Tennis League, the hosts know they must win both their remaining matches, starting tonight against the Aces.

Caroline Wozniacki ensured the Royals a perfect start with a victory over Kirsten Flipkens, but when Goran Ivanisevic lost to Mark Philippoussis on a shoot-out that the Croatian claimed his opponent had deliberately drawn out, and then Djokovic lost to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, the home franchise’s chances of a win looked unlikely.

That was until the final set, when Nenad Zimonjic and Marin Cilic battled back to beat Tsonga and Daniel Nestor. The victory gave the Royals a much-needed 26-25 win.

“I think it was to be or not to be for both teams,” Cilic said. “There was tremendous spirit and it was a pleasure to play. I have really enjoyed being a part of the team.”

The Indian Aces had earlier strengthened their place atop the standings with a 28-24 win over DBS Singapore Slammers.

Ana Ivanovic, the 2008 Australian Open winner, defeated Daniela Hantuchova in front of a sparse crowd.

“We played on a slower and softer court, so it was a little more difficult to play and return,” said Ivanovic, who played a selection of crafty drop shots and powerful forehands on her way to a 9-3 shoot-out victory. “You get more time and the serve and volley towards the end was for Pete.”

That was a reference to Pete Sampras, the 14-time grand slam winner, who sat on the Aces bench, despite being originally scheduled to play Pat Rafter. Instead, Rafter played Fabrice Santoro, losing 6-3.

“When we first arrived, we said we wanted to win, but we didn’t know how strong the battle would be,” Santoro said.

“It’s a strong competition and everybody wants to win, but we can engage some smiles and have some fun on the court, too.”

gmeenaghan@thenational.ae

Follow us on Twitter at SprtNationalUAE

Published: December 12, 2014 04:00 AM

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