By Ros Satar.
- Andy Murray adds IPTL Dubai swing to his winter training block
- Joins OUE Singapore Slammers in his second year
- He and Roger Federer entertain the Dubai crowds as Federer comes up winless
DUBAI, UAE – Big hitters Andy Murray and Roger Federer helped lift the clouds that delayed the day’s action at the International Premier Tennis League (IPTL) when they went head to head in the doubles and singles.
With both players making Dubai their base for the winter training, it was a clash to savour, as Federer was searching for his first win since returning to the format that made its debut last year, amidst much fanfare.
With the tweaking of the rules, shot clocks, and five sets involving women’s singles, men’s singles, men’s doubles, mixed doubles and legend’s singles, the format returned with much fanfare, and with no shortage of stars to join their ranks.
We have already seen Serena Williams clobber her racquet in disdain after a loss to Kurumi Nara, and the teams have welcomed “regulars” such as Ana Ivanovic, Sania Mirza, Gael Monfils and yes even Serena and Maria Sharapova.
Last year they had Federer and Novak Djokovic to help the programme along but Djokovic’s withdrawal to get more rest brought in Stan Wawrinka and Murray.
The Brit, fresh from helping to guide Great Britain to a famous Davis Cup win admitted that he had been asked to commit to far more earlier in the season, and felt he could not at the time. Talking to the press earlier this month at another debuting format Tie Break Tens, at the Royal Albert Hall during the tennis, he said:
“I got asked to play six, seven months ago, and I said I’m not committing to that, with Davis Cup potentially. I needed to take a break at the end of the season because it’s a long year for me. And I was planning to do my off-season training in Dubai, and I said if there are any matches in Dubai once I’m there training, then I could do it.
“So three to four weeks ago I was asked again if I wanted to play a couple of matches while I was there, and I said yeah. It’s obviously good whilst I’m there to play practice sets. I’m living right there on the site where they’re playing the event and it makes sense.”
Accompanied by coach Amelie Mauresmo, after the birth of her first child Aaron in August, Murray started with some mixed doubles against Swiss star in the making Belinda Bencic, and a little more doubles practice where he got his first look at Federer. The crowds were rewarded after a lengthy rain delay in the first match of the day with a straight set shootout between the World Nos. 2 and 3.
Yes of course this is just an exhibition, but earlier in the tournament, Federer admitted that people come here with the intent to perform well, after maybe his earlier scepticism in its first year. Not that it has done him much good – he went 0-6 this time around, including losing to Rafael Nadal who had already hit the ground running.
Murray leapt ahead 3-0 and had three set points on the Federer serve, leading 5-2 before the Swiss came back at him giving the late night crowd something to get their teeth into. Murray edged him 6-4 and in the grand scheme of the travelling roadshow, the Singapore Slammers suddenly find themselves in contention with the runaway leaders, the Micromax Indian Aces. They might have well been smarting, losing Federer in the draft. But it looks as though the tournament ending fireworks may now be between the Slammers and the Aces in Singapore.
Then again, if it fireworks you want – just wait until Murray’s tenure is over…and Wawrinka joins the side with Nick Kyrgios as his team mate, after ‘sledge-gate’ earlier in the season. Meanwhile, this is just an exhibition, but if confidence post-Davis Cup is anything to go by, Murray means business when he comes back after Christmas at home with pregnant wife Kim to start his Australian campaign.
Murray will partner Heather Watson in the Hopman Cup, 3-9 January.
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