The inaugural edition of International Premier Tennis League (IPTL) received a massive response in its Delhi leg. While the fans cheered the most for the likes of Roger Federer, Sania Mirza, Rohan Bopanna and Novak Djokovic, there were a few players who aren’t the superstars of modern day tennis, but every time they appeared on the court, the crowd went gaga because they were the ones who entertained spectators the most.
He might be out of international tennis for quite some time now, but former Wimbledon champion Goran Ivanisevic was one of the crowd’s favourites at the Indira Gandhi Indoor Stadium.
Thousands of fans that gathered at the stadium on the first day were desperately looking to interact with players through their relentless chanting. The stadium witnessed an interesting moment during the men’s singles match between Patrick Rafter and Goran Ivanisevic.
When a section of the crowd cheered, “Love you Goran,” the Croatian waved a kiss towards the fans and even asked them to get louder after winning the next point against his old rival, whom he defeated 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 2-6, 9-7 in the memorable 2001 Wimbledon final.
After losing the next point, Goran dropped his shoulders and looked back towards that section, which continued to cheer him whenever he hit the court.
Ivanisevic was part of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) Royals team that won their opening match of the India leg 29-16 against the Singapore Slammers. Even on Day 2, the 43-year-old continued to interact with the crowd, whenever he got an opportunity.
At one point during his match with Rafter, Ivanevic was seen keeping the ball boys busy. Prior to his serve, he kept knocking the balls from one ball boy to the other, much to the surprise of everybody on the court!
Another player, who won quite a few hearts in the national capital was Nick Kyrgios. The Australian, who caused a major upset in Wimbledon earlier this year by ousting Spaniard Rafael Nadal, is a livewire on the tennis court. Kyrgios made his intentions clear the moment he was introduced on the opening day, where he arrived on the court hopping and dancing.
During his match with Nadal earlier this year, the Australian had bamboozled the mighty Spaniard with shot which was played through his legs (also known as tweener) for a winner and it immediately went viral on social media. While some hailed it as the shot of the day, many experts rated it as “the shot of the year.”
Kyrgios, the youngest player in the IPTL (19), played that shot on more than one occasion. Every time he chased the ball behind him, the crowd expected him to play the tweener, and no matter what the result was, Kyrgios brought the crowd on its feet every time he attempted it.
Kyrgios’ hair-style - a Mohawk – was also a constant topic of discussion between the tennis fans.
When it’s about entertaining the crowd during a tennis match, Gael Monfils can’t be far behind.
The Frenchman, who was having a quiet day by his standards, was about to serve on Day 1 when the crowd started chanting, “Monfils, Monfils!” He paused for a second only to confirm it was his name, and once he was sure, he encouraged the crowd to get louder. The spectators seemed to be waiting for it, as the stadium was filled with deafening sound!
It was Monfils who gave the Delhi crowd one of the most memorable moments from Day 2. Soon after Roger Federer won a point and was about to rest, Monfils looked at Federer and began dancing to the loud music. Sensing the moment, Federer too joined in and shook a leg which led to huge cheering from all sections of the crowd.
Considering his extraordinary skills on the tennis court, they say Gael Monfils is ‘the man who can fly’. Making Federer dance on a court is nothing short of an achievement.
While the Indian fans were at the stadium to watch Federer, Djokovic and Sania, they would never forget these three players, who made the inaugural edition of IPTL a memorable one.