SPANISH superstar Rafael Nadal walked into the playing court of the Mall of Asia Arena amid bursts of lights and a thunderous roar usually seen only in rock concerts.
And it did not take long for the world’s no. 5 netter to justify such a rockstar treatment.
Nadal wowed the crowd with his display of powerful forehands and patented double-fisted backhands as he thwarted stubborn Tomas Berdych in the men’s singles play, 6-5 (7-3) to complete the demolition job by the Indian Aces of the UAE Royals Monday night in the penultimate round of the Coca-Cola International Premier Tennis League’s Manila leg.
Earlier, Nadal worked in tandem with Ivan Dodig to easily trounce David Nestor and Berdych, 6-3, in the men’s doubles as the Aces virtually clinched the game with a 24-13 lead going into the final set.
“It’s great to be here. It’s the first time in my life to visit the Philippines,” said Nadal, who is actually making his debut in the IPTL after begging off from last year’s event due to appendicitis.
The pair of Sania Mirza and Rohan Bopanna got the ball rolling for the Aces with a 6-4 victory over the UAE Royals’ tandem of Nestor and Kristina Mladenovic in the mixed doubles.
Shortly after, Samantha Stosur blasted Ana Ivanovic, 6-3, in the women’s singles and Fabrice Santoro thumped Goran Ivanisevic, 6-3, in the men’s legends’ battle as the Aces went ahead, 18-10, going into the final two sets with Nadal seeing action.
Meanwhile, Russian legend Marat Safin, who has become a politician after a long, successful career in tennis, is very much aware of Filipino ring icon Manny Pacquiao’s heroics on the boxing ring.
He is also aware of Pacquiao’s budding career in Philippine politics.
“It’s a good thing he (Pacquiao) has done. It’s good for the country, for youth, for the economy, for tourism,” said Safin, during the media interview after his Japan Warriors lost to the Singapore Slammers on opening day of the IPTL Sunday night.
As a politician, Safin supported the legislation of a law preventing American citizens from adopting Russian orphans.
“He (Pacquiao) just has to be patient. He can pick a fight with just his hands, but I am not allowed to take my racquet in the senate” said Safin, who also kidded that Senate hopeful should “not hit anyone” in the Senate if he gets elected.
Safin bowed to Carlos Moya in their men’s legends singles’ match.
World no.1 Serena Williams regaled the Sunday night crowd with her power shots in her easy 6-3 win over Ana Ivanovic of the UAE Royals in their women’s singles’ match, although it was pretty obvious she was still groping for form.
In partnership with Fil-American Treat Huey, Williams committed several unforced errors, turning what would have been a very winnable match into a close game they lost out to the tandem of Nestor and Mladenovic.
“I don’t lack motivation, I have always been motivated. I just needed to take some time off and heal, to be able to walk without pain. And since my season ended earlier this year, I thought it was great to be able to come here and get some good match practice,” said Williams.
The IPTL fittingly serves that purpose and Serena is enjoying every bit of it.
“I really enjoy the format, and that’s why I’m here again! The crowd in Manila was great last year, and more so this year, it was wonderful walking out for the home team,” she said.
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