AFTER TWO WEEKS of high-octane action from some of the world’s best tennis players, we have reached the final stages of the second edition of the Champions Tennis League (CTL) and the two best teams in Punjab Marshalls and Hyderabad Aces will battle it out for the coveted title in Hyderabad tomorrow.
The Aces have just managed to sneak into the finals and would be hoping to clinch the title in their own backyard. On the other hand, the Marshalls will enter the finals unbeaten and will fancy their winning juggernaut to continue en-route to glory.
While Hyderabad will rely on the big serving of Ivo Karlovic, and would want the giant to come up with one final heroic, the Punjab franchise would once again pin their hopes on another collective, all-round performance from their close-knit unit.
TFG analyses the game and picks the winner of the match between the Aces and Marshalls.
Both captains Thomas Johansson and Greg Rusedski have led from the front with some superlative performances in this category. While Rusedski has enjoyed mixing it up with variety, Johansson has stuck to his tried and tested method of serving big. Expect both men to stick to their game plan and we could have a cracker of an opener. As far as their ATP tour head-to-head goes, the Swede leads the Brit (8-4), but that should hold little relevance today in a unique format like this. Johansson might get all the support from his home crowd, but Rusedski is likely to come out trumps.
Hyderabad’s Martina Hingis might have surprised a few with her baseline shots in this tournament till now, but Punjab’s Elina Svitolina has arguably been the pick in this category. The Ukrainian has shown signs of great maturity and depth in her shots. Besides hitting the ball hard, Svitolina has also used the angles of the court to a nicety. Expect the baseline slugfest to continue between the two ladies. The Swiss might surprise Svitolina with some craftiness, but the Ukrainian is likely to prevail here.
There is no doubt that Karlovic/Hingis have been the best-mixed doubles pair in this year’s competition. The combination of Karlovic’s big serve with Hingis’ delicate volleys has paid rich dividends for the Aces. The celebrated duo will stick to this successful formula in their clash against Marcos Baghdatis/Svitolina. The Punjab pairing might lack the fire-power and finesse of their opponents, but as far as consistency is concerned, the duo has no reason to be upset. It is tough to see a tie-break here and Hyderabad have all the Aces in this section.
Much of the success of the Marshalls can be ascribed to the pair of Baghdatis/Saketh Myneni. This Punjab pair has arguably been the best in this tournament and has all the quality to outclass the pairing of Jeevan/Karlovic. While, the Cypriot has been the mainstay for the Marshalls, India’s Davis Cupper Myneni too, has been aggressor. Myneni has served well and has also shown signs of brilliance at the net. For the Aces, the Croat will once again be a pivotal figure, but Jeevan’s inconsistency might come under the scanner.
The clash between Baghdatis and Karlovic has all the makings of a thriller. Both men have played some solid tennis in the tournament and will carry all the confidence into this fifth and final set. There is little to separate the two teams and we could have a scenario, wherein this set could determine the fate of both teams. At the moment, the Cypriot leads the Croat 3-1 in their ATP head-to-head and it would be interesting to see who has the last laugh in this format. This match could come down to how Baghdatis returns Karlovic’s booming serves.
That said, a tie-break is inevitable here and Karlovic might just eke out a close win. However, the Marshalls are likely to come into the final set with an overall lead in the number of games won. Karlovic might win the final set and push the set into overtime. However, Baghdatis might have little difficulty in holding his serve to ensure that Punjab Marshalls win the tie and the CTL crown based on the overall number of games.