Marcos Baghdatis proved to be the match-winner as he came up with the big points in crunch time in the decider to help Punjab Marshalls record a 22-21 win over Hyderabad Aces in the final of the second edition of the Champions Tennis League, at the floodlit Lal Bahadur Stadium tennis complex, here on Sunday.
With the aggregate scores tied 17-all before the start of the men’s singles – the last contest of the evening, the focus was on the big-serving Ivo Karlovic, who clocked a 214-kmph serve and fired seven aces in the match. This fiery display by Karlovic saw the issue stretched into the tie-breaker.
But in what looked like a battle between equals in the final stages, it was Bagdhatis who fired a crucial ace – his third in this singles – and then came up with a big strong serve which saw Karlovic struggle to return to the delight of the Marshalls bench as the team clinched the men’s singles 5-4 (5-3).
Earlier, to the dismay of Aces camp, Thomas Johansson suffered his first defeat in the Legends singles category against Greg Rusedski. The former Australian Open champion, who was expected to give the winning start to the crowd favourites, could not get his return of serve in when it mattered most. That a surprisingly erratic Rusedski, who even had three double-faults, could emerge winner was also a hint of how the game went awry for the Aces captain as his ground-strokes were far and wide quite frequently.
In the women’s singles, a much fitter and younger Elina Svitolina edged out a fighting former World No. 1 Martina Hingis 5-4 (5-4) in the tie-breaker. To her credit, Hingis did surprise her opponent with her trademark passing shots but the opponent, now ranked World No. 19, was equal to the task to raise the level of the game despite struggling early with her serve. Importantly, Svitolina’s brilliant return of serve in the tie-breaker was the clinching issue.
It was the mixed doubles combine of Karlovic and Hingis which kept the hopes of Aces afloat as the latter showed why she is the World No. 1 in women’s doubles with a vintage display marked by some amazing passing shots. And unsurprisingly they emerged an easy 5-2 winner against Baghdatis and Svitolina.
The focus then shifted to men’s doubles, which was till now a weak-link in the Aces’ armoury. Though the young Jeevan Neduncheziyan combined well with the big-serving Ivo Karlovic to put up a much better display, the powerful duo of Baghdatis and the Indian Davis Cupper Saketh Myneni proved to be too good as they won the match 5-4 (5-3) via tie-breaker.
Then, it all boiled down to the battle between the big-servers. And all hopes of Karlovic raising the bar were dashed by the efficient Bhagdatis in that crucial last battle of the evening as he came back strongly at the most decisive moment of the game to settle the issue.
The result: Final: Punjab Marshalls bt Hyderabad Aces 22-21 (Greg Rusedski bt Thomas Johansson 5-4; Elina Svitlona bt Martina Hingis 5-4; Marcos Baghdatis & Elina Svitolina lost to Ivo Karlovic & Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan 2-5; Marcos Baghdatis & Saketh Myneni bt Ivo Karlovic & Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan 5-4; Marcos Bhagdatis bt Ivo Karlovic 5-4).
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