Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer put on a show to remember, with the two legends of tennis, 31 Grand Slam titles between them, serving up some delectable tennis that the crowd in New Delhi ate up with absolute glee.
Nadal was the star of the show on this glorious IPTL night, as the Spaniard won his doubles and singles sets, both with Federer on the other side, to lead the Indian Aces to a 30-19 victory over the UAE Royals.
Every single one of the give sets of this match had some drama and/or world-class tennis, but it was the final two that set those pulses racing as Nadal and Federer went head-to-head. Nadal, teaming up with the outstanding Rohan Bopanna, first got the better of Federer and Marin Cilic 6-4 in the men's doubles, and with the match already in the bag, the Spaniard found that hits-the-lines-anytime-he-wants to shut out his great rival.
It all began with the Indian duo of Bopanna and Sania Mirza, given a roaring cheer as they walked onto the court, weaving their own magic. Bopanna and Sania are such accomplished doubles players now, that if you give them the slightest of openings, they will barge right through.
Kristina Mladenovic and Daniel Nestor did pretty well for much of this set, but Sania and Bopanna were just too good, even though the point of the entire match between the Aces and Royals went the way of the French-Canadian duo as Mladenovic, somehow, managed to dig out a smash from Bopanna and place it in such a manner that neither of the Indian Aces players had a chance.
With the momentum on their side and the crowd asking for more, Agnieszka Radwanska, who has taken this Indian Aces team up a level since coming in, ruthlessly dispatched Mladenovic 6-1 to give the home team a big 12-5 lead.
If the Royals were going to pull this match back, they were going to need some serve magic from Goran Ivanisevic. However, the Croatian, unfortunately, ran up against the best legends player in this IPTL – Fabrice Santoro. Every time Ivanisevic thought he had the set in the bag and had put Santoro away, the Frenchman would find a way back, with a couple of out-of-this-world-for-a-retired-player shots, that even had the UAE Royals bench on their feet applauding, the highlights.
After holding his nerve in the shootout to take the set 6-5, the two matches that the crowd came to see took centre-stage.
Nadal got the better of his great rival in match number one, with Bopanna, yet again, showing his doubles chops, helping the Spaniard beat the seriously-scary doubles team of Cilic and Federer.
With three world-class men's singles players and one seriously-good doubles player on the court, the quality and intensity of tennis was cranked up a fair bit, with Federer and Cilic, knowing their team needed a big win, walking onto the court with their gamefaces on.
However, those gamefaces just weren't good enough on the night, with Federer looking a little rusty, while Nadal and Bopanna played one solid shot after another to take the set 6-4.
The final set of the match was all about "we don't care who wins, just give us some good tennis", with the Indian Aces already confirmed winners owing a 24-14 lead.
Federer got off to a slow start, struggling to find those first serves again, and Nadal took early control, jumping to a 2-0 lead. Federer got some of his mojo back in the next game, before carrying that momentum into the next game as well to get the break back and level the set at 2-2.
The crowd, loving every shot in this set, was now roaring every single point, irrespective of the winner, but Federer, yet again, dropped his guard a little, and Nadal pounced, with a ripper of a backhand fetching him a break point, which he duly took.
From there it was looked like being all Nadal, as he found those lines with unerring accuracy, but Federer refused to lie down and play dead. After saving a couple of set points on his serve, Federer played his best game of the entire match to find the break and take the set into a shootout.
Results: Indian Aces beat UAE Royals 30-19.
Sania Mirza/Rohan Bopanna beat Daniel Nestor/Kristina Mladenovic 6-4.
Agnieszka Radwanska vs Kristina Mladenovic 6-1.
Fabrice Santoro vs Goran Ivanisevic 6-5 (7-4).
Rafael Nadal/Rohan Bopanna vs Roger Federer/Marin Cilic 6-4.
Rafael Nadal vs Roger Federer 6-5 (7-4).