After the successful staging of the International Premier Tennis League (IPTL) in Manila in 2014, IPTL producers generously brought the competition to these shores once again this week—proving that tennis has a huge following among Filipinos.
From December 6 to 8 at the SM Mall of Asia Arena, the Manila leg of IPTL 2015 saw some of the world’s most awarded, and most famous tennis stars compete against each other, among them Spanish Rafael Nadal, American Serena Williams, Serbian Ana Ivanovich, and Filipino-American Treat Huey.
On its third and final day on Tuesday, the international league closed with exciting singles and doubles games between the Philippine Mavericks led by team captain Mark Philippoussis (Australia) vs. Indian Aces led by team captain Fabrice Santoro (France).
With tough competition, Philippine Mavericks emerged victorious and on the top of the league as the games move on to India.
But besides the electrifying court action, the energetic crowd also witnessed memorable sideline scenes including a half naked Nadal who changed from his casual shirt to his tennis wear for all to see. After 67 titles and grand slams, the King of Clay maintained his fit physique, the sight of which thrilled his Filipino fans. The mundane act sent the Mall of Asia Arena into a wild frenzy, so much so that there was no denying that the Filipinos were rooting for the fifth-seed tennis player despite the fact that he played for the opposing team.
In the end, the 29-year-old Nadal was beat by Canadian Milos Raonic at the games’ last singles match with a shower of service aces. Raonic is four years younger than Nadal but only turned pro in 2008 compared to Nadal in 2001.
It was a close game nonetheless, and both players clearly enjoyed the challenge.
“I loved the energy out there today,” Nadal said before exiting the court. “I had my chances, it could have gone either ways, but it was a great match. It was a great afternoon. Great tennis!”
For his part, Raonic said, “I just played my game, and stuck to the plan. With Rafa out there, I knew I had to keep the points short, not let him control the game, and that’s just what I did. It is exciting to play the way we did.”
The night ended with both teams taking separate “groufies” with big smiles on their faces and with the promise that they will—yet again—return next year.