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The Secret Combination: A Look at the IPTL Draft

After its first season last fall, the IPTL will be back for a second installment – this time with an additional team in the form of the Japan Warriors, and five match days of play throughout December. The format and its the place in the calendar has found a lot of fans, and today we’ll be looking at the first round the IPTL draft.

Indian Aces

(Rafael Nadal, Sania Mirza, Rohan Bopanna, Gael Monfils, Fabrice Santoro, Ivan Dodig, Agnieszka Radwanska)

Much of the core of last year’s winning team remains the same for 2015, with new doubles No. 1 Mirza, Bopanna, Monfils and Santoro returning. Last year, Santoro proved to be MVP at several matches, while Mirza and Bopanna often swept through the mixed doubles. Rafael Nadal was originally scheduled to play for the team but pulled out last September with injuries.

Photo: Christopher Levy

Photo: Christopher Levy

This year, he has been drafted again; the question is how many match days he’s going to play (if at all). Even if he isn’t around for the whole time, Monfils provides a more than viable alternative. Another big name added to this year’s team is Agnieszka Radwanska, who’ll certainly play a fair number of sets in women’s singles but could easily play a mixed doubles should Mirza be unavailable for a tie.

All in all, it’s another strong roster for the Dehli-based team – particularly considering last year’s successes of the four returning players.

Japan Warriors

(Kei Nishikori, Maria Sharapova, Leander Paes, Vasek Pospisil, Marat Safin, Daniela Hantuchova, Lucas Pouille, Kurumi Nara)

This year’s new addition to the IPTL, the Japan Warriors, features a star studded roster – but for how many matches? In last year’s inaugural event, Sharapova only played the Manila leg when she was drafted by the Mavericks, and it’s difficult to see the Russian playing more than one match. Nara and Hantuchova will likely step up in singles when the World No. 2 is not present.

Photo: Christopher Levy

Photo: Christopher Levy

Nishikori will be flying the flag for his home team, but much like Sharapova, it’s hard to see him playing the full tour. However, Pospisil and talented young Frenchman Pouille provide two solid alternatives in men’s singles. The Canadian might prove to be a valuable add and, considering his recent doubles success, he could do some damage alongside doubles legend and 2015 Australian Open mixed winner Paes. Finally, there’s Safin: the one question mark and a wildcard that could swing things either way. Let’s just hope he plays mixed with Sharapova at some point, because that could to be quite the pairing.

A couple of big names feature on the newest IPTL team but how reliable will the “B-squad” be when the stars are absent?

Singapore Slammers

(Novak Djokovic, Nick Kyrgios, Karolina Pliskova, Carlos Moya, Belinda Bencic, Thanasi Kokkinakis, Marcelo Melo)

After ending up on the bottom of the table last year, the team from Singapore will be looking to reverse its fortunes in 2015. Djokovic is the team’s biggest star, but he’ll probably play two legs of the event at best. Within the Aussie duo of Kyrgios and Kokkinakis are two young guys in the wings, who love and flourish under a team environment and will likely be at their enthusiastic best for much of December.

Photo: Christopher Levy

Photo: Christopher Levy

A marked contrast to rising Aussies, Pliskova will be also participate this year, providing a cool contrast to the more excitable members on the Singapore bench. The big-serving 23 year old seems the least likely to get swept up and emotionally invested in proceedings, but perhaps we’ll see a different Pliskova come IPTL.

Photo: Christopher Levy

Photo: Christopher Levy

Bencic is another constantly improving young woman, who could make a very viable pick in singles and doubles. Moya will also return to the competition, after having played for Manila last year. Melo is the resident doubles expert and, having reached the quarterfinals or better at the last three majors, the 6′ 8″ man from Belo Horizonte makes a very solid addition to the Slammers.

Though these nice guys finished last in 2014, Singapore’s squad now a couple of young, exciting players to mix with a few more experienced players and stands a good chance of turning their results around in 2015.

UAE Royals

(Roger Federer, Ana Ivanovic, Tomas Berdych, Kristina Mladenovic, Marin Cilic, Goran Ivanisevic, Daniel Nestor)

Quite possibly the most star-studded team of the IPTL, the Royals have drafted four Top 10 players in Federer, Ivanovic, Berdych and Cilic. But as with Sharapova, Djokovic and Nishikori, the question is how many legs either will play this year. Ivanovic played the entire swing in 2014, but has had a string of disappointing results to start her WTA season. While the former World No. 1 said she loved the team atmosphere, it’s difficult to gauge how many ties she’ll participate in come December.

Photo: Christopher Levy

Photo: Christopher Levy

Ivanisevic has been drafted again as well, joining his charge Cilic just like last year. Two of the most important names for the Dubai-based team, however, are Mladenovic and Nestor. The Frenchwoman in particular proved to be a solid add in 2014, with some very solid singles performances and is a two-time mixed Grand Slam champion alongside the Canadian doubles expert.

With some of the biggest names on-board the 2014 runners up should be in the mix again later this year but watch for Nestor and Mladenovic to be the quiet MVPs of the team.

Manila Mavericks

(Serena Williams, Sabine Lisicki, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Richard Gasquet, Mark Philippoussis, Jarmila Gajsodova, Borna Coric, Treat Huey)

Manila hosted the opening weekend of the last year’s IPTL and was one of the best received stages of the tour. This year the Mavericks have brought a 19-time major winner on board, but there’s a solid chance she won’t be playing much more than one or two match days. Gajdosova and Lisicki are two more than decent back-up choices, especially the former, who has started to show some form again and loves a stage. Tsonga returns to the IPTL alongside fellow Frenchman and Davis Cup teammate Gasquet.

Photo: Christopher Levy

Photo: Christopher Levy

Both men have had some struggles with injuries in recent months, so for that reason alone, Manila did well to get Coric on board. Who knows, by the team the IPTL rolls around, he might just be within shouting distance of the two veterans from France. Hometown hero Huey resumes his role as player-coach, and will likely be looking to replicate the form he brought to the doubles in 2014. Last but not least, Philippoussis returns to Manila after having won nine out of ten sets last year.

The Mavericks have once again got a solid team on their hands but Tsonga and Gasquet are the biggest question marks.

Are you looking forward to the IPTL? Are there any players or teams you’ll find yourself rooting for? Tell us in the comments.

About René Denfeld (202 Articles)
Weather is my business. Tennis is my playground. Born in the year of the Golden Slam. Just give me all the bacon and eggs you have.

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