Delhi Dreams edge past Punjab Marshalls in CTL opener

New Delhi: Delhi Dreams were off to a splendid start in the inaugural Champions Tennis League (CTL), winning all the singles matches for a 25-19 victory over Punjab Marshalls in the tournament-opener, here yesterday.

Jelena Jankovic
Jelena Jankovic 

According to the league format, the team that wins more games wins the tie and not the sets. Juan Carlos Ferrero provided a fiery start to the hosts as he routed Greg Rusedski 6-1 in the legends singles to put the hosts ahead. World No.15 Jelena Jankovic from Serbia shrugged off a poor start to beat Garbine Muguruza 6-5 (5-3) in the women's singles and Kevin Anderson spanked Somdev Devvarman 6-1 in the deciding men's singles when Delhi were leading Punjab by a slender one-game margin.

Punjab, having charismatic Leander Paes, won the mixed doubles and men's doubles. Paes featured in both the matches. Punjab's hopes hinged on Somdev but the 6 feet 8 inches tall Anderson showed why he is world number 16 as he demolished the challenge of the India's number one player in a matter of minutes. The South African sprayed winners all over the centre court with a hapless Somdev gasping.

The Indian, ranked 139, could hold his serve only in the first game of the match and was broken in third, fifth and seventh games as close to 1000 fans watched their hero go down. Ferrero hardly broke a sweat in outplaying the 41-year old Briton Rusedsky as the Delhi player needed just 19 minutes to provide a winning side to his side.

Nicknamed 'mosquito' in his playing days for his agility, Ferrero conceded just four points on his serve and broke his rival thrice. The 2007 US Open finalist, Rusdeski, seven years older than Ferrero, fired two aces but hardly put up a challenge to the 2003 French Open winner. Ferrero hit a backhand winner past Rusedski at 40-40 in the seventh game to close the match.

India's hero Paes then joined hands with Garbine Muguruza to bring Punjab back in the tie with a clinical 6-3 win over Kevin Anderson and Jelena Jankovic in the mixed doubles. On Paes serve, Jelena hit a backhand to net on the second set point, allowing Punjab to make it 1-1. In the women's singles between the two top-20 players,
Jelena and Garbine were slow off the blocks but gradually the match became interesting.

Garbine's double-handed backhand was a treat to watch but it was the Serb who overcame a very sluggish start to put the hosts ahead again with a 6-5(5-3) win. The 29-year old Jelena, a former world number one began with a flurry of backhands and dropped her serve in the very first game but broke the Spanish girl in the fourth to make it 2-2.

The Serb again dropped her serve and Garbine held her own to take a healthy 4-2 lead. From here the match changed as the two players picked up the pace and Jelena managed to curb her errors. The Serbian made it 4-4 with another break of serve and the first tie-breaker of CTL came into play after the two players held in the ninth and the 10th.

The Serb dominated the tie-break as Garbine paid the price for unforced errors. Down by set points, the Spanish girl hit a forehand long, ending the contest in Delhi's favour. Paes yet again came to the rescue of Punjab, winning the men's doubles with Devvarman, beating the Delhi pair of Sanam Singh and Anderson 6-4. At this stage Delhi were leading by a small margin of one game, leading the tie 19-18. It all boiled down to the fifth and final match of the tie and Anderson won his side the tie easily.

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