DUBAI: The Eagles team won several key matches on day three of the World Tennis League here to take the top spot from the Falcons.
The mixed doubles featured Grigor Dimitrov and Aryna Sabalenka for the Falcons against Bianca Andreescu and Rohan Bopanna for the Eagles, with the Eagles taking the opening set comfortably as Bopanna especially showed some great touches. The second set was highlighted by a spectacular rally which ended with Andreescu striking a crosscourt backhand winner to keep the Eagles on serve for a 3-2 lead.
The Falcons though broke to lead 4-3 when Andreescu lost her serve two games later. Sabalenka made it 5-3 but, after Bopanna held, Dimitrov failed to serve out the set and it went to 5-5. The set then moved on to a tiebreak, which the Falcons took 7-4 to finally level the match. The super tiebreak was just as closely contested, with the Falcons edging it 10-7.
In the women’s singles, Caroline Garcia took the fiercely-contested first set for the Eagles against Paula Badosa of the Falcons. The opening two games went against serve before, with Garcia leading 5-4, Badosa double-faulted to drop her serve for a second time and hand the Eagles the set. The second set followed a similar pattern, with Garcia this time broken in the third game before once more immediately breaking back to level at 2-2. Garcia soon went on to take the upper hand as she broke Badosa at love to lead 4-2, but she still needed to fight off a break point as she served for victory and to level the tie.
“It was a great atmosphere out there and I really played a good match,” said Garcia. “I’m playing with this team format for the first time and I really enjoy it. It’s really good fun, a different experience.”
Dimitrov returned to court for the men’s singles to face Nick Kyrgios, after Novak Djokovic withdrew from the match. The 21-time Grand Slam winner though did spend time on the bench supporting his team, as well as showing a few dance moves during a change of ends.
The match was close for the first set and a half, with no player earning a break of serve as the opening set went to a tiebreak. The second set also remained even until 3-3, when Dimitrov broke serve to lead 4-3 after Kyrgios had saved three break points, and that appeared to break Kyrgios’ resistance as Dimitrov broke again for the match.
Despite his defeat, Kyrgios is happy to be a part of the World Tennis League. “It’s always good to have these bonus matches (at the end of a season), and this is the best kind of pre-season you could wish for,” said Kyrgios. “I love playing in team events. You rarely get that during the year. It’s fun. It’s definitely an experience.”
There are three matches in each of the six sessions, featuring mixed doubles, women’s singles and men’s singles. Teams get one point for each game they win, plus five bonus points for winning most games in a match. One point wins the game at deuce, there is no advantage scoring, and if sets are one set each a super tiebreak is played, first to 10. That tiebreak can be won by a single point margin. Finally, the team manager can call one timeout in each set.