Nadal nips Berdych as Aces rout Royals | Inquirer Sports

Nadal nips Berdych as Aces rout Royals

/ 10:50 PM December 07, 2015

Rafael Nadal goes through his service patented service ritual during the Indian Aces' match against the UAE Royals in the 2015 IPTL Manila leg Monday night at Mall of Asia Arena. Tristan Tamayo/INQUIRER.net

Rafael Nadal goes through his patented service ritual during the Indian Aces’ match against the UAE Royals in the 2015 IPTL Manila leg Monday night at Mall of Asia Arena. Tristan Tamayo/INQUIRER.net

The all-too-familiar Rafael Nadal habit behind the service line still looks like the Spanish star’s way of keeping his foe guessing which corner of the court he intends to land his serve.

As he bounces the ball with his racket several times, his right hand fixes the back of his underwear. Then with his thumb and forefinger, he wipes the sweat from his nose and fixes his hair over the top of his left ear.

Then he slams a service winner.

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Vamos Rafa!

The 14-time Grand Slam champion and his famous (infamous) service ritual was a smash hit Monday night as he debuted in the International Premier Tennis League before a big, adoring crowd at Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay.

Blasting away with a heavy top spin and working behind an aggressive baseline game, the Spaniard fought back from 0-3 down to frustrate Tomas Berdych, 6-5 (7-3) via shootout and lead the Indian Aces to a 30-18 rout of the United Arab Emirates Royals.

Tristan Tamayo/INQUIRER.net

Tristan Tamayo/INQUIRER.net

“It’s a very wonderful feeling playing here in Manila for the first time in my life,” said the 29-year-old Nadal, one of the world’s greatest players of all time.

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“You’ve got a fantastic crowd here in the Philippines.”

He chased every point like he’s playing in the majors, but this time he would smile at the crowd whenever the noise of their adulation drowned the sound of his fierce groundstrokes.

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“Thank you very much. It was very interesting format, it was great playing in a place you haven’t played before,” said Nadal, the winner of a record nine French Open titles at Roland Garros.

Nadal missed last year’s inaugural IPTL because of appendectomy but more than made up for his absence with a performance to remember last night.

He also won the men’s doubles in tandem with Ivan Dodig, 6-3, over Daniel Nestor and Berdych.

Like Nadal, 21-time Grand Slam winner and reigning world No. 1 Serena Williams also knew how to work the crowd like a rock star, something rarely seen of tennis megastars on tour.

“It’s fun, that’s why I am here again,” the 34-year-old Williams said of the unique high-level competition.

She regaled the crowd Sunday night by dancing to the arena music.

“I had fun last year (in IPTL), I definitely wanted to continue it,” said Williams. “I was out (of the tour) early, it was opportunity to get more tennis in.”

The world’s top players didn’t hesitate to kick up their feet and let their hair down. Williams, at one point, bowed to the gallery after dishing out a forehand crosscourt winner against Ana Ivanovic.

Rohann Bopanna and Sania Mirza opened the scoring with a 6-3 decision over Kristina Mladenovic and Daniel Nestor in the mixed doubles as the Indian Aces swept all five sets against the Royals.

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Also winning for the Aces were 2011 US Open champ Samantha Stosur, who bested 2008 French Open winner Ana Ivanovic (6-3) and Fabrice Santoro, who tamed Goran Ivanisevic (6-3).

TAGS: 2015 IPTL, Indian Aces, IPTL, Rafael Nadal, Tennis, UAE Royals

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