New Delhi: World No 1 Novak Djokovic and legendary Roger Federer delighted fans on their India debut as home team Indian Aces scored their second straight win of the IPTL at the Indira Gandhi Indoor Stadium, here on Sunday.
Indian Aces, comprising heavyweights Federer and retired Pete Sampras, pummeled Singapore Slammers 26-16 in the first match of the today. Djokovic made an unexpected appearance in the night match but his UAE Royals lost to Manila Mavericks 24-27.
Sampras, who arrived here the wee hours of today, pounded a few aces against Patrick Rafter that took back fans to the days when he ruled the sport. However, lack of match practice cost him and lost 2-6 to Rafter, putting the home team on the back foot.
The 15000 capacity was only half full despite the presence of a star studded line-up on the court. Soon came the moment the whole of India was waiting for, Federer playing for the first time in the country and it was a mixed doubles match alongside Sania Mirza. The duo hardly broke a sweat, dispatching Nick Kyrgios and Daniela Hantuchova 6-0 to get Aces back to level terms.
"It is so special to be here. Thank you guys. I have been getting special treatment ever since I have arrived here," said Federer in a court side interview. Asked about playing mixed doubles for a change, he said: "It is something I don't get to do often but it was fun. I think I have only played with Martina (Navratilova), Hingis (Martina), my wife (Mirka) and now Sania."
His every move drew a loud roar from the crowd. He was back on the court to play men's doubles with Rohan Boppanna. He alongside the Indian doubles specialist easily brushed aside the challenge of Lleyton Hewitt and Kyrgios 6-1.
The men's singles was expected to be the most intense match of the day with second ranked Federer and world No 7 Tomas Berdych taking on each other. Federer did not take it easy even after playing back-to-back sets, producing enough to beat Berdych 6-4.
"It's my first time in India playing tennis, so it's a big deal for me. I thought it's a great innovation, people seem happy to see me, I was excited when I saw the lights flashing while introducing me, it was a goose-bump atmosphere. It was definitely a very cool moment for me in my career."
World No 5 Ana Ivanovic completed the job for Aces by winning a close women's singles match against Daniela Hantuchova 6-5 after a tense five minute shoot-out.
Later in the day, Manila Mavericks was the better against a formidable UAE Royals, having the likes of Djokovic, Marin Cilic and Goran Ivanisevic in their ranks.
A fit-looking Mark Philippousis beat Ivanisevic 6-3 in the past champions singles to give Mavericks an ideal start. World No 9 Marin Cilic then scraped past a gritty Jo-Wilfried Tsonga won 6-5 to even the tie.
Extra energy into the match was infused with Djokovic, who was scheduled to play only tomorrow, stepped on the court with Nenad Zimonjic. However, Djokovic was unable to play the way he is known for, resulting in their 5-6 loss against Tsonga and Daniel Nestor in the men's doubles. Kirsten Flipkens and Nestor extended the advantage for Mavericks by getting the better of Zimonjic and Kristina Mladenovic 6-2 in the mixed doubles.
In the final match of the day, Flipkens put an inspiring show against higher-ranked Caroline Wozniacki, defeating the Dane 6-3.