IVO KARLOVIC’S LAST set heroics against Feliciano Lopez sends the Hyderabad Aces into the final of the Champions Tennis League (CTL) as the visitors beat the hosts (23-21) in the final match of the tournament in Nagpur.
After four sets of play, both teams had won 2 sets apiece and the Aces were just a game ahead of the Orangers (18-17). Going into the fifth and final set, it was anybody’s ball game. In the end, the big-serving Croatian held his nerve in the tie-breaker and served out the match.
As usual, legends Alex Corretja and Thomas Johansson started proceedings for the evening. Both men indulged in some long, grueling rallies and tested each other from the back court. Nagpur’s captain came up with the goods to break his counterpart’s serve, but lost momentum in holding his own.
After almost 30 minutes, the set had to be decided in a tie-break, and the Swede got some huge serves in at the crucial moments to eke out a hard fought, win 5-4.
In the women’s singles, Hyderabad’s Martina Hingis got off to a flying start after breaking Nagpur’s Jelena Jankovic and led 2-0. However, the Serb came right back at the Swiss and leveled the match without much trouble.
Both ladies exchanged some heavy balls from the baseline and kept creating some amazing angles. While, Hingis used her court sense to a nicety, Jankovic painted the lines on a few occasions. This set too went into a breaker and as we had right predicted, Jankovic held her nerve to grab the set 5-4.
Now, after two sets, both teams had won a set each and were locked at nine games all.
Into the most entertaining part of the match, the Karlovic/Hingis pair came into this clash as the slight favourites but were forced onto the back-foot after an early lead of 0-2. That said, the experienced duo, leveled the match and started getting their act together.
Into the seventh game, Karlovic/Hingis got the decisive break and the opening to seal the set 5-3 to keep the Aces in front with a two games lead.
In the men’s doubles, Karlovic/Jeevan N and Lopez/Sharan struggled on their serves and the first two games were won on breaks. Hyderabad’s Jeevan played great second fiddle to his partner, while Sharan, took charge at the net and complemented Lopez to a nicety.
The two teams had to be separated by a tie-breaker and both teams started to feel the pressure. In the end, Lopez/Sharan hung in tough to clinch a nerve-wracking game 5-4 and were just a game behind the Aces 17-18.
In the fifth and final set of the evening, Lopez held serve without much trouble in the first game, but Karlovic’s serve was under the gun and the Croat served bombs on break-points to escape without any damage.
Since then, both men continued to hold serve and any window of opportunity to break was denied by the server quickly. As everybody expected at the stadium, the set and the match had to be determined by a tie-breaker.
For the Orangers, Lopez had to win the breaker to further push the match into a shoot-out (as per the tournament rules overall tally of games matters and Aces were ahead by just one game). However, Karlovic fired three unreturnable serves towards the end of the breaker to nail the tie and a spot for his team in the CTL finals.
The Aces will play the finals against the formidable Punjab Marshalls in Hyderabad on Sunday.