MANILA, Philippines (AP) – Serena Williams made a much-awaited appearance at the franchise-based International Premier Tennis League on Sunday but could not lift Singapore Slammers as her team succumbed to a third straight defeat in the first leg.
“It wasn’t easy but I had a lot of fun,” the top-ranked Williams said after playing against home team Manila Mavericks in front of a lively crowd of 12,000 at the Mall of Asia Arena. “I love the team atmosphere. If you lose a match, everyone is still positive and that’s what I love about it.”
Williams, who did not play on the opening two days, defeated Manila Mavericks’ Kirsten Flipkens 6-3 in the women’s singles but lost the mixed doubles partnering Lleyton Hewitt as Andy Murray and Flipkens combined better for a 6-1 win.
Manila Mavericks beat Singapore Slammers 27-19 in the new fast-paced team format in which results are decided by aggregating games won from five one-set matches – men’s and women’s singles, men’s doubles, mixed doubles and legends singles – rather than the match results.
Murray, who helped garner the first victory in three matches for Manila Mavericks, will not be available for the remaining three legs of the $1 million event to be played in Singapore, New Delhi and Dubai.
The team on a roll was the Indian Aces, which won all three matches despite the absence of Roger Federer and Pete Sampras in this leg.
Novak Djokovic, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Andre Agassi, Goran Ivanisevic, Maria Sharapova and Ana Ivanovic are other prominent past and present players who feature in different legs of the tournament.
The IPTL format consists of one-set matches that can be decided by a four-minute shootout at 5-5 rather than the traditional tiebreaker.
There are also ‘power points’ which give players a chance to double up on a point in each match nominated before receiving serve. Other novelties include time-outs and doing away with advantage points.