Singapore Slammers defend IPTL title but what does the future hold?

 

By Jake Davies

  • Singapore Slammers defend their title following a 30-14 win over the Indian Aces.
  • Kiki Bertens shines for the Slammers in a one-sided win in Hyderabad, India.
HYDERABAD, INDIA – The Singapore Slammers defended their International Premier Tennis League (IPTL) title – but will they ever get a chance to play again?

 

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Singapore Slammers ease to victory over the 2014 IPTL champions Indian Aces

The Singapore Slammers, led by Purav Raja, struggled to win matches against the Indian Aces in their previous meetings. The defending champions narrowly lost in Tokyo and Singapore but fought back after having lost the first two matches of the 2016 IPTL season.

One player that epitomised the quality and strength of character over the course of the two weeks was Kiki Bertens. The 2016 Roland Garros semi-finalist has beaten some strong players inside the last twelve months and she took that additional experience into a format that was completely new to her. After a slow start in her opening two matches, she became one of the most valuable players in a strong Singapore Slammers side. Bertens’ ability to not only penetrate through the court with her serve and forehand, but also to nullify her opponents strengths with the backhand slice, served her well in this quick-firing IPTL format.

Carlos Moya has also delivered in his role as one of the ‘Legends’ playing the IPTL. He salvaged the first set win of the final by beating Mark Philippoussis and the Slammers did not look back as they dominated in the respective doubles matches – both in mixed and in the Men’s doubles encounters.

The partnership that Bertens and Marcelo Melo struck up in the mixed actually carried the team through a lot of the closely-contested ties over the three legs and showcased that Bertens is a very good doubles player as well as a player that has improved enormously on the singles circuit.

Indian Aces took up the option of using their substitutions as they drafted Sania Mirza in in the women’s singles to the surprise of many. Mirza is now one of the best doubles players in world tennis but had not played a singles match on tour since Eastbourne in 2012. Bertens continued to look irrepressible on serve to the dismay of the Indian Aces team watching court side.

It was left to Marcos Baghdatis to bring home the title and with a combination of great shotmaking and solid ball-striking from the back of the court, he was able to come through with the Slammers second IPTL crown.

 

What does the future hold for IPTL?

Will we witness another IPTL season in 2017? The format this year was far shorter in comparison to previous years. In 2015, IPTL was played over five legs, which was reduced to just the three legs this season. Another alteration occurred in the number of teams challenging for the title as the Philippine Mavericks were pulled out of the 2016 ‘s version of the IPTL, reportedly due to financial constraints and the ongoing political situation in that country.

Tennis definitely has a place for the IPTL even with it’s many changes and modifications. It is an event that boasts the ability to bring players together as a team, which is rare in tennis, where the focus is usually on the individual. And for most players it allows them to play tennis with a sense of freedom, which also does not usually happen in the high pressure moments on tour.

The biggest stumbling block is whether they can financially lure the very best players to play the event, which is crucial in order to bring legions of fans to their event – that will also enhance the credibility of the event as a whole.

Also, will the players make room in their busy schedule for the IPTL? Some players have returned and speak highly of the format and the event overall, but it is clear to see that a lot of the players see it as an afterthought – that is something that Mahesh Bhupathi has to address in order to improve the exhibition event in the long run.

 

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