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Paes’ Japan Warriors beat UAE Royals in IPTL India Leg opener

Indian veteran Leander Paes and his doubles partner Hugues Herbert turned it around remarkably for the Japan Warriors, who beat UAE Royals 24-21 to record their first win of the tournament in the opening match of the International Premier Tennis League’s India leg here on Thursday.

From trailing 6-12 after two sets, the Warriors staged a remarkable comeback to register their first win after five successive losses.

UAE Royals began the match impressively with world number six Ana Ivanovic proving a handful for both Kurumi Nara and her substitute in the middle of the set Mirjana Lucic.

The Serbian superstar gave her team a 1-0 lead by winning the contest 6-2 with consummate ease. In front of a sparse yet vociferous crowd, Goran Ivansevic rolled back the years to dish out some exquisite strokeplay to extend the lead for UAE Royals. Up against Swede Thomas Enqvist, Ivansevic showed that he had lost none of the old magic by outplaying his rival 6-4. “It was a difficult match but he made it easy for me by committing some very easy mistakes,” said the former Wimbledon champion. However, the match turned on its head when local hero Leander Paes walked in for the men’s doubles tie along with Hugues Herbert. Up against Tomas Berdych and Daniel Nestor, the Indo-French team prevailed 6-3 much to the delight of the few hundred fans, who had trickled into the stadium.

The 42-year-old Indian veteran was evidently enjoying himself, guiding Herbert, who is nearly a decade younger to him. 

The duo broke Nestor and Berdych once en route to the convincing victory. Next up proved to be the upset of the match as Berdych found himself outplayed by the sheer grit of Herbert. Broken twice in the match, Berdych could only mumble in disbelief as Herbert stunned him by matching his power in baseline strokes. The Herbert victory narrowed the scoreline gap to 18-19, making the mixed doubles set a crucial one. 

The set was played between Kristina Mladenovic and Nestor and Lucic and Herbert. Herbert, the US Open men’s doubles champion, and Lucic ensured that the turnaround was complete as they clinched the issue 6-2 to finally open the Warriors account.

IPTL can do for tennis what IPL has done for cricket: Paes
Dropping hints that he might turn up for ‘Indian Aces’ next season, Leander Paes on Thursday said that International Premier Tennis League (IPTL) will have a similar impact on country’s tennis just like the cash-rich Indian Premier League has had on cricket.  “It (IPTL) showcases tennis and it showcases with top players. A country, which is starved to see quality players, as many times as we can motivate people, it will be good. IPTL is doing to tennis in India what IPL did to cricket,” Paes said after his Japan team’s 24-21 win over UAE Royals. “If stands were full, it would have been fantastic. I am surprised to see lack of turn-out,” said the veteran doubles specialist. Paes’ team won its first match of the season and it was his men’s doubles win with Pierre- Hugues Herbert that did the turnaround on Thursday.  Paes said the owners of the Indian team are well aware of what he can do in the men’s doubles and hinted that he may join Indian Aces next season. “I met the owners and the sponsors and they said that they (team) are winning but still losing the men’s doubles set. They said,”Your team wins doubles game but loses matches, so you can play for us next year”.  I said “speak then”. I would love to play for India with Federer and Nadal,” Paes said after the match. Asked how it feels to play for a foreign team on his own soil, Paes said,”I would love to play for India. This Indian team won the IPTL and they wanted to continue with the same combination.”
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