|Posted on December 2, 2016 at 1:10 PM|
Team UAE Royals: Tomas Berdych, Pablo Cuevas, Martina Hingis, Goran Ivanisevic, Ana Ivanovic, Thomas Johansson, Daniel Nestor and coach John-Laffnie De Jager.
Tokyo, Japan | 02 December 2016
The Coca-Cola International Premier Tennis League 2016 kicked off in style at the Saitama Super Arena in Japan
Both teams being on neutral ground, the UAE Royals won the toss and became the 'home team' which gave them the right to choose the order of play. Their strategy paid off and the UAE Royals won the first match of this year’s edition with a powerful 29-19 against the reigning champions, the Singapore Slammers.
A proud coach of the winning team, John-Laffnie de Jager walked on court with his squad of Daniel Nestor, Pablo Cuevas, Thomas Johansson, Goran Ivanisevic, Martina Hingis and Tomas Berdych.
The Singapore Slammers couldn’t start their title defense with a triumph but coach Purav Raja remains hopeful with his strong line-up of Marcelo Melo, Kiki Bertens, Rainer Schuettler, Marcos Baghdatis, Carlos Moya and Nick Kyrgios.
Kyrgios, one of the leaders of the next generation of tennis players, claimed his biggest ATP title to-date in Tokyo a couple of months ago and the Aussie was thrilled to return to his happy hunting ground. “I love playing in Japan” Kyrgios said back in October. “The crowd is always enthusiastic, always clapping, making noise. It’s fun to play in front of them.”
Goran Ivanisevic gave the Royals a solid start, taking on Rainer Schuettler, who led their ATP head-to-head 2-1 before they both retired from the sport. UAE got the only break of the set courtesy of a clever Coca-Cola Power Point call (a receiving player or team can call the Coca-Cola Power Point to indicate that the next point counts as double for the receiving player or team only).
Martina Hingis played her first singles match since 2015 and third since 2007 against one of the WTA surprises of the season, Dutchwoman Kiki Bertens, who reached the semifinals at Roland Garros this year. Hingis was unstoppable and helped her team with a great performance as a debutante.
With a rivalry that has gathered steam this year, former Slammer team-mates Tomas Berdych and Nick Kyrgios faced off in the IPTL for the first time but for the fourth time in 2016 in an electric encounter. The Czech made his team proud with a very fine set.
Men’s doubles saw some terrific tennis from Daniel Nestor and Pablo Cuevas, who beat Marcelo Melo and Marcos Baghdatis.
As for the Mixed Doubles, Melo and Bertens notched the only win of the match against the experienced Nestor/Hingis taking advantage of the shoot-out (if the trailing team wins the fifth set the match will continue until either the trailing team has won enough games to equal the overall score and force a ‘Super Shoot Out’ or the leading team wins one game and therefore wins the match).
What the Players said:
Martina Hingis: “Goran took pressure off of me winning the first set and I after I won the first three games I just felt better and better. I am very happy with my win and the possibility of helping the team. It’s a very nice way to start things off.”
“Tasting the waters of the past and being able to play a singles match has been very cool. I know it’s only a set, but I enjoyed a lot. At the beginning you think ‘Do I still have it? Can I win a couple of games? And then it was ‘wow, I won that set’.”
“I am the only girl of the team at the moment so I cannot wait until Ana comes to join us.”
Goran Ivanisevic: “Has been a good start. I always play good in Japan since a long time ago. We played last year in Kobe and now Tokyo, it’s a perfect start. I am very happy to be back.”
“I have been every year with the same team, we have a very good addition with Martina so we have a very good team, with a very good spirit. Even if we never won, we have a good spirit.”