International tennis superstar Maria Sharapova said that she wants to return to the Philippines next year after experiencing the warm reception of local fans during the International Premier Tennis league (IPTL) tilt at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.
The 27-year-old Sharapova visited the beautiful beaches of Palawan a week before the start of the IPTL tourney. She played her last matches on Saturday night although her prowess failed to stop the Micromax Indian Aces from posting a 24-15 win over the Manila Mavericks.
“Simply amazing. All the people here are very fantastic and generous. The places are beautiful and I’m hoping to return next year here in Manila,” said Sharapova, the current Women’s Tennis Association No. 2 player during a postmatch interview.
Despite losing her two matches – mixed doubles with Andy Murray and women’s singles event against Ana Ivanovic, Sharapova remains the crowd favorite.
“We came here just to watch Masha (Sharapova’s nickname) and not anybody else,” a fan named Liza Tang told The Manila Times. “She is very receptive to the fans. We really love her no matter she wins or not.”
Murray and Sharapova lost to Rohan Bopanna and Sania Mirza of the Aces 1-6 in the mixed doubles.
Unlike in her first women’s singles match during the opener where she scored a come-from-behind 6-5 win against Kristina Mladenovic of the United Arab Emirates Royals, Sharapova lost to Serbian Ivanovic of the Indian Aces, 3-6.
“She [Ivanovic] really played tremendously well tonight,” said Sharapova. “Their team is competitive. The first time I played in doubles event was when I was younger. It was my first time to play with Andy, so that was a lot of fun.”
Sharapova, who is only committed to play two matches in the IPTL, returned to Russia yesterday to prepare for her next overseas tournament next year.
In the other matches, David Nestor replaced Carlos Moya of the Manila Mavericks after the latter injured his groin in the middle of the legends singles match. Nestor lost to India’s Fabrice Santoro 1-6.
The Manila Mavericks had the best game in the men’s doubles when J-Wilfred Tsonga and Filipino-American Treat Huey outlasted Aces’ Rohann Bopanna and Gael Monfils, 6-0.
But the Indian Aces ruled the remaining mixed doubles, men’s and women’s singles events to seal their second victory.
Former French No. 1 Monfils routed Murray in the men’s singles match, 6-4,
The Indian Aces also defeated the Singapore Slammers in the opening day, 26-16.
Earlier, the United Arab Emirates Royals, headed by US Open reigning champion Marin Cilic, Mladenovic and retired Croatian player Goran Ivanisevic, bested the Singapore Slammers, 28-22, for their second win.