Wawrinka inspires Singapore to IPTL final victory
SINGAPORE: Stan Wawrinka showed his class in both singles and doubles to lead the Singapore Slammers to victory in the International Premier Tennis League (IPTL) final in front of a delighted home crowd at the Indoor Stadium on Sunday.
Matches in the Asia-based mixed team tennis league are decided by games won in five one-set shootouts over various formats and Switzerland's Wawrinka played brilliantly to ensure the Slammers overcame the Indian Aces 26-21 in a gripping finale.
Carlos Moya got the home side off to a perfect start with a 6-4 victory over French shot-maker Fabrice Santoro in the 'Legends Singles', the Spanish veteran coming out on top of five straight breaks of serve after he had opened a 3-2 lead.
Swiss starlet Belinda Bencic stretched the advantage by a game after the 18-year-old fought off a gritty challenge from Russia's Svetlana Kuznetsova to claim the women's singles, 6-5.
The pair put on an absorbing display despite never looking comfortable on serve, with three breaks apiece in the opening 10 games sending the contest into a "shootout" (identical to a tiebreak), which Bencic claimed 7-3 to put Singapore 12-9 ahead.
"I was lucky that Charlie (Moya) won and did a great job and I could also make a lead," Bencic said in a courtside interview. "It's not much but we will try to keep winning the matches."
The Aces, however, struck back in the mixed doubles with their strong Indian pairing of Sania Mirza and Rohan Bopanna storming to a 6-2 victory over a shell-shocked Dustin Brown and Karolina Pliskova to put the defending champions 15-14 ahead.
Wawrinka, the highest-ranked player in the final, was then called on to turn the tie around and he duly obliged, helping the Slammers reclaim the lead with a 6-3 win over Bernard Tomic before teaming up with Marcelo Melo to seal the contest.
Australia's Tomic matched the world number four shot-for-shot until the double grand slam champion called on his trademark one-handed backhand to forge a break of serve in the sixth game and open a 4-2 lead.
He consolidated the break to love and then served out the set two games later to put the Slammers 20-18 ahead going into the deciding men's doubles.
Wawrinka had warmed to the task and looked as accomplished as his doubles world number one partner from Brazil, the pair dominating Bopanna and Ivan Dodig 6-3 to set off wild celebrations in the middle of the court.
"I just came along at the end and helped the team," Wawrinka said. "The team had done an amazing job in the two weeks leading to the final and I was just really happy to finish it off playing with a great player and friend Marcelo."