MANILA: Ana Ivanovic demolished Daniela Hantuchova in an impressive International Premier Tennis League debut on Friday (Nov 28), but said it was “hard to imagine” the game evolving to adopt the much faster format.
The Serbian world number five routinely broke her fellow baseliner Hantuchova’s serve in a 6-0 win that was over in a whirlwind 15 minutes, as the tournament got underway in Manila.
“I think it will be hard to imagine” the fast-paced, television-friendly IPTL format replacing tennis as it is played in the men’s and women’s tours now, Ivanovic told a news conference later. “As for rules it’s very hard because we’ve been playing by certain rules for a long, long time.”
The IPTL, which will also have stops in Singapore, New Delhi and Dubai next month, has a team format with ties consisting of five one-set matches, with no advantages. The first to six games wins.
A 20-second shot-clock between points guarantees quick play, and at 5-5, players go into a timed shoot-out in which they must accumulate the most points before time is up. Players receiving a serve can also call a “happiness power point” once per set, meaning the next point will count double.
Reigning US Open champion Marin Cilic, who defeated world number six Andy Murray, called it “the most important” feature of the IPTL. “It can turn the game around and it can make it interesting,” he said. However it was the shootout that won the Croat the match, 6-5.
World number two Maria Sharapova, boosted by the partisan crowd in the 16,000-capacity Mall of Asia Arena, rallied from 2-5 down to beat Kristina Mladenovic, 6-5. However, her and Murray’s Manila Mavericks eventually went down 4-1 to Cilic and Mladenovic’s UAE Royals. “I didn’t want to lose my first singles match in Manila,” the Russian said as she thanked the fans for their overwhelming support.
Sharapova faces Ivanovic in the headline match-up on Saturday.
IPTL officials have touted the rapid format, which has attracted many top players on the men’s and women circuits, as the “future” of the sport. The IPTL also features skimpily-clad female cheerleaders dancing to loud music during timeouts. “I think with this format, we want the crowd to make as much noise as possible. We want it to be like a basketball match,” Murray said.
But Ivanovic, whose effort helped her Indian Aces team beat Hantuchova’s Singapore Slammers 4-1, said its speed “changes the dynamic of the game a lot”. “I need some more time and breaks in between,” Ivanovic said, especially with “balls sometimes not being in place”.
Most of the other players were also bemused by the shot clock on Friday, while both Murray and Cilic’s veteran team-mate Goran Ivanisevic grumbled about the slowness of the court surface.
Ivanovic’s team-mate Gael Monfils, who eventually won against Lleyton Hewitt 6-1, was penalised and went behind 0-15 in the fifth game of the singles match because he could not serve fast enough. “It was very slow, very strange. Balls were flying then stopping,” Ivanisevic said. “The ball bounces very high. Sometimes it’s quite difficult to control,” Murray said.
Ivanovic pointedly described the IPTL tournament, which comes after the end of the 2014 tour, as “an exhibition” but conceded it was “actually an interesting concept”. “Tonight was (my) first match for a long time and (was) without match practice,” she said. “I really enjoyed it and was really happy to win that first game and I kind of settled in and played well after that.”
However, with Ivanovic scheduled to play at all four stops of the IPTL tour this year, she said it was likely to affect her preparations for the 2015 regular season. “Definitely. It’s a long two weeks and I’m still going to do my own training on the side while still playing and competing, so we’ll see.”
Collated results from day one of the International Premier Tennis League in Manila on Friday:
Indian Aces 4 Singapore Slammers 1
Rohan Bopanna/Sania Mirza bt Bruno Soares/Daniela Hantuchova 6-4
Fabrice Santoro bt Patrick Rafter 6-5
Gael Monfils/Rohan Bopanna lost to Nick Kyrgios/Tomas Berdych 2-6
Ana Ivanovic bt Daniela Hantuchova 6-0
Gael Monfils bt Leyton Hewitt 6-1
UAE Royals 4 Manila Mavericks 1
Goran Ivanisevic bt Carlos Moya 6-5
Marin Cilic/Nenad Zimonjic bt Treat Huey/ Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 6-4
Nenad Zimonjic/Kristina Mladenovic bt Andy Murray/Maria Sharapova 6-5
Maria Sharapova bt Kristina Mladenovic 6-5
Marin Cilic bt Andy Murray 6-5