Slammers confident of bouncing back in Singapore leg
They started poorly in the first leg of the inaugural International Premier Tennis League (IPTL) last week in Manila, losing all three of their matches.
But the DBS Singapore Slammers are aiming to reverse their fortunes today, as the high-profile four-city tennis competition blasts off here at the Singapore Indoor Stadium.
Bolstered by the likes of eight-time Grand Slam champion Andre Agassi and women's world No. 1 Serena Williams, Slammers coach Josh Eagle is hoping to make home advantage count.
Speaking at a press conference yesterday at the Shangri-La Hotel, Australian Eagle said: "We didn't get off to a start we would have liked in Manila, unfortunately, but we had a great time there, we had great team spirit and we've learnt a lot over the last three days.
"We lost a few points which were pivotal and they really turned the match. We are hoping to turn the tide this week."
The Singapore team lost 27-19 to the Manila Mavericks, fell 26-16 to the Micromax Indian Aces and were narrowly beaten 28-22 by the musafir.com UAE Royals in the Philippines and are bottom of the standings with just four points.
Besides Agassi and Williams, the likes of Czech world No. 7 Tomas Berdych, Grand Slam champions Lleyton Hewitt and Pat Rafter, Daniela Hantuchova, Nick Kyrgios and Bruno Soares complete the Slammers' roster.
One of the all-time greats in the sport, Agassi did not feature in the Manila leg, but he is expected to be prominent at the Indoor Stadium playing in the "past singles champions" category over the next three days.
Of his glamorous team, Eagle said: "It is not easy at all when you have Grand Slam champions, like Pat Rafter, who's had to sit out a couple of matches, but it's great that we are bringing back the all-time greats and putting them together with the great players of the current era.
"We are serious about winning and we are going to pull out all the stops to try to get off to a good start."
After three matches in Manila, players and coaches are still coming to terms with the new and innovative format - there is a shot clock, a "happiness" power point, substitutions and no-advantage scoring systems - that are marked departures from the traditional game.
Said Berdych: "It is very interesting because you don't get to do anything like that during regular tournaments.
"When you are actually on court, you are just focused on your match and the play you are making. And then you try to follow the new rules and format, and put it all together.
"So far it has been working pretty well and I really like it."
While other players who are not involved in the four-leg series will no doubt be having their post-season downtime and perhaps contemplating their pre-season routine, Berdych believes his involvement in the IPTL will not disrupt his preparations for the new year ahead.
Said the 29-year-old: "(The IPTL) definitely is part of my preparations for next season; the day for me starts with, sometimes, taking time for myself doing some fitness preparations.
"With matches starting later in the day, I have the whole day to prepare myself and do my own stuff.
"If I get on court, the format is very fast and the matches are not too long, so you still can schedule your day well."
Organisers expect huge crowds
The coaches and players were giddy over the success of the Philippines leg of the inaugural International Premier Tennis League (IPTL) last week.
IPTL chief operating officer Eric Gottschalk even claimed the fans were "standing on their seats after the last ball was hit" in Manila, where some 28,000 fans caught the action over three days.
He is confident the Singapore leg - which kicks off today and ends on Thursday - will see good crowds at the Singapore Indoor Stadium, despite the fact that this is the only leg which will feature entirely on weekdays.
After Singapore, the IPTL moves to India, from Saturday to Monday, and the United Arab Emirates will host the final leg, from Dec 11 to 13.
LOVE FOR TENNIS
Speaking at a press conference yesterday at the Shangri-La Hotel, Gottschalk said: "The ticket sales have picked up, there are still tickets available, but we are expecting a full venue."
Responding to a question by The New Paper, he added later: "I was here a couple of weeks ago for the WTA (Women's Tennis Association) Finals and I was very, very positively surprised by how much support tennis has in Singapore, where the stadium was filled from Day 1.
"Ticket sales (for the Singapore leg of the IPTL) have been going quite well... and I expect to have almost the full capacity, even though it will be held during the weekdays."
The organisers did not give figures for ticket sales by press time, although Singapore Slammers CEO Vikas Gehlot previously said that the event was almost sold out for the first day and "tracking well" for the following two days.
MUSAFIR.COM UAE ROYALS v MICROMAX INDIAN ACES (Today, 4pm)
- Men's singles: Marin Cilic v Gael Monfils
- Women's singles: Kristina Mladenovic v Ana Ivanovic
- Men's doubles: Nenad Zimonjic/Cilic v Monfils/Rohan Bopanna
- Mixed doubles: Mladenovic/Zimonjic v Sania Mirza/Bopanna
- Past champions singles: Goran Ivanisevic v Fabrice Santoro
DBS SINGAPORE SLAMMERS v MANILA MAVERICKS (7.30pm)
- Men's singles: Tomas Berdych v Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
- Women's singles: Serena Williams v Kirsten Flipkens
- Men's doubles: Berdych/Lleyton Hewitt v Daniel Nestor/Treat Huey
- Mixed doubles: Williams/Bruno Soares v Flipkens/Nestor
- Past champions singles: Andre Agassi v Mark Philipoussis