SINGAPORE (Reuters) - The Singapore Slammers took their first International Premier Tennis League (IPTL) victory at the fifth time of asking when Tomas Berdych led the home side to a thrilling 24-23 victory over the previously unbeaten Indian Aces on Wednesday.
The Slammers started the four-city mixed team tournament with four straight defeats but drew on the big-hitting Czech to overcome the Aces after looking a beaten side midway through the five single-set encounter.
With matches decided on games won rather than sets, world number one Serena Williams gave the hosts a perfect start with a rousing 6-4 victory over Ana Ivanovic, fighting back from 3-1 down to give a rocking Indoor Stadium plenty to cheer.
The tie then appeared to be slipping away from Singapore after Williams and Bruno Soares lost the mixed doubles 6-3 and an error-strewn Andre Agassi was thrashed 6-2 by Aces skipper Fabrice Santoro in the ‘icons’ singles match.
Trailing 16-11, Berdych entered to dominate Gael Monfils 6-2 in the men’s singles, setting the stage for Australians Lleyton Hewitt and Nick Kyrgios going into the final set of the night, a men’s doubles encounter against Monfils and India’s Rohan Bopanna.
The Australians edged the contest 6-5 following a five-minute shootout when the scores were tied at 5-5 with Hewitt dedicating the victory to deceased cricketer and “dear friend Phillip Hughes”, whose funeral took place earlier on Wednesday.
The victory ensured the contest ended 23-23 meaning a seven-minute super shootout was needed to decide the winner and home captain Josh Eagle called on Berdych to take on a weary Monfils and his charge duly obliged 10-6 to secure the win.
“There’s no better feeling than that,” an elated Berdych said in a courtside interview. “It’s great to share in such an important win with the guys and you can see that everything is possible in this game. We have our first win.”
Earlier, the UAE Royals beat the Manila Mavericks 26-21 to close on the Aces at the top of the standings. After five rounds, the Aces have 18 points, with the Royals on 15, the Mavericks on 13 and the Slammers on 10.
The tournament has one more night in Singapore before shifting to Delhi, where Roger Federer will play for the Aces, and concludes in Dubai on Dec. 13.
Editing by Alan Baldwin