The evening opened with four preliminary matches, at least that’s what they must have seemed like to the spectators, and after that came the heavyweight bout. Indira Gandhi Indoor Stadium in New Delhi was abuzz in anticipation last night. The Indian capital was hosting the third leg of the inaugural International Premier Tennis League and the match was the finale of a three-day run. The fifth contest of the evening was the marquee matchup: top-ranked Novak Djokovic versus world No. 2 Roger Federer. The IPTL, the brainchild of founder and former Indian doubles star Mahesh Bhupathi, features a team tennis model consisting of one set each of men’s singles, women’s singles, men’s doubles, mixed doubles and men’s legends singles. Additionally, there are some rule changes to speed play and spice up the action. On this night the best was saved for last. A choice dictated by the home team. Federer, playing for the Micromax Indian Aces, and Djokovic, for the Musafir.com UAE Royals, competed as if this was the ATP World Tour Final that wasn’t. The one mired by Mirkagate and Federer’s bum back. Few smiles and dead serious tennis made for an extremely entertaining show. Federer rushed the net and Djokovic rifled passing shots as if they were playing at Flushing Meadows. After two holds, Djokovic broke for 2-1 by winning a power point (an exciting rule option) while down 30-40. In the unique IPTL format, the receiving player can call a power point once every set which counts double if won. Federer broke back in the next game using the same tactic. Serving at 3-3, Federer saved three break points to hold. Service prevailed to 5-5, when in the IPTL, a five-minute shootout is played rather than a tiebreaker to decide the set. Most points in the five minutes wins. Federer opened in spectacular fashion executing a bolo smash a la Jimmy Connors on a Djokovic lob to hold for 1-0. Serving at 6-5 with less than 20 seconds left Federer let the shot clock run out to take the set 6-5 (6-5). The Aces lost 29-22, but the home-town fans loved it anyway. And so did Federer. Djokovic? Perhaps less so.
Federer Edges Djokovic at IPTL Contest in India
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