Lopez breaks Karlovic code; Orangers edge Aces in an epic tie to top the Group B table

FELICIANO LOPEZ OVERCAME bombs from Ivo Karlovic in the fifth and final set, tie-breaker to help the Nagpur Orangers clinch a famous tie against the Hyderabad Aces (22-20) in an epic, edge of the seat thriller at Hyderabad, yesterday. 

Both teams were locked at two sets each, but the visitors were just one game ahead of the hosts (17-16). That said, with big serving, trump cards in their ranks, both teams fancied their chances in the final set. But in a dramatic finish, it was the Spaniard Lopez, who held his nerve to break the Croat’s serve to nudge ahead.

As predicted by TFG, the match did go down to the wire and the best crowd of the tournament at Hyderabad would have been delighted that they witnessed, arguably, the best tie of this year’s CTL. 

Legends Thomas Johansson and Alex Corretja kicked-off proceedings and both men had little issues in holding their serve. As expected, the Swede fired some huge aces to get the home fans on their feet, but the Spaniard too, held firm with some exquisite shots. In the end, a lapse in concentration from Corretja handed the break to the former Australian Open champion, who then went on to seal the set 5-3. 

For the second set of the evening, Hingis and Jankovic took the court and it was the Swiss who raced to a 2-0 lead. However, the Serb immediately broke back and held to get back to level terms. Both women produced some vintage tennis from the baseline and entertained the capacity crowd in Hyderabad. 

As the set reached the business end and things got a little tighter, Hyderabad fans got behind their champion, but Jankovic broke Hingis again in the seventh game and held serve to seal the set 5-3. 

Hingis and Jankovic stayed on to team up with Karlovic and Lopez respectively in the mixed doubles. Here, the Hyderabad pair raced to a 4-1 lead and were poised to drive home the advantage. However, the Nagpur team responded by winning three consecutive games to send the set into a tie-breaker. 

While, the Croat kept serving big, Hingis kept putting away the volleys at the net. On the other side of the net, Lopez/Jankovic too fought valiantly but lost the breaker and the set 4-5. Now, the home team was leading by just one game 13-12 and there was still plenty of tennis to be played in this exciting tie. 

In the men’s doubles, Hyderabad’s Karlovic/Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan and Lopez/Divij Sharan exchanged some quick points at the net and managed to hold on to their serves. 

Although, Nedunchezhiyan put up a better show compared to the previous matches, a few errors in the fifth game from the Chennai lad gave Lopez/Sharan the break of serve. In the end, the Hyderabad duo served out the set 5-3. 

Now, at two sets all and 17-16 (games), it was difficult to pick a winner and the final set of the evening had to be decided between serving giants, Karlovic and Lopez. 

Both men started off serving well and had little problems holding their serve. As expected the set went into a tie-breaker and eventually it was the Spaniard who prevailed in the shoot-out 5-4. 

The hosts might look back on the squandered opportunity in the mixed doubles when Karlovic/Hingis led by 3 games and had a great opportunity to close out the tie with a 4 games lead. On the other hand, the visitors would be cock-a-hoop with their cohesive unit and form. 

After two wins in a row, debutants Orangers top the Group B with four points and will host V Chennai Orangers in Nagpur on 3rd December. Meanwhile, the Aces will remain home to play their second tie against Chennai today. 


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