Nadal’s star power steals homecourt edge but Mavericks upset Aces
Rafael Nadal had half of the home crowd rallying behind him, but the Philippine Mavericks and their fast-rising star Milos Raonic went on to upset the Spanish superstar and his Indian Aces, 25-24, in a fitting finale to the 2015 IPTL Manila leg Tuesday night at Mall of Asia Arena.
“It’s amazing to finish this match here. As the home team, it’s been an honor to compete here,” said Raonic, who validated his case as one of the next in line to break into tennis’ top echelon with a 6-5 (7-6) win over Nadal.
In one of the tournament’s most thrilling sets, Raonic and Nadal went back-and-forth with neither giving an inch until the former world No.1’s forehand return went wide left in the first-to-seven shootout, drawing mixed reactions from the adoring and anxious crowd, as the Mavericks were rewarded their fourth win in five matches.
Despite the hard-earned victory, the Mavericks still remained in second place behind the Aces, who absorbed their first loss after starting the tournament at 3-0. Only 0.7 in the winning percentage column separates the two teams in the standings as the tournament moves to New Delhi, India for the third leg which runs from Dec. 10-12.
A victory by another fan-favorite Serena Williams over Australian Samantha Stosur, 6-3, in the fourth set made it a 19-all count heading into the much-anticipated showdown between Raonic and Nadal.
The two didn’t disappoint. Raonic pulled ahead, 4-2, before Nadal, the winner of a record nine French Open titles, knotted the set at 5 following two consecutive errors by his Canadian foe.
Filipinos had one last time to cheer for the Mavericks, but many of them held signs in support of one of the best to ever hold a tennis racket in Nadal.
One fan was raising her iPad with the words “Vamos Rafa” flashing on the screen. One group seated at the lowerbox area waved a Spanish flag and screamed their lungs out as Nadal dazzled in the Aces’ win in the men’s doubles, 6-4, over the Mavericks’ pair of Richard Gasquet and Edouard Roger-Vasselin.
“The crowd was fantasic,” said world No.5 Nadal, who vowed to have a resurgent 2016 after dropping to as low as 10th in the ranking earlier in the year.