Agassi 'shockingly uncomfortable'

Updated: 2014-12-04 07:14

By Agencies in Singapore(China Daily)

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Legendary champ loses one-set match but has high praise for IPTL format

American legend Andre Agassi said the International Premier Tennis League should carve out a lasting place in the sport despite a "shockingly uncomfortable" debut as he crashed to Mark Philippoussis on Tuesday.

Agassi 'shockingly uncomfortable'

Singapore Slammers' Andre Agassi of the US waves to fans after the matches against Manila Mavericks at the International Premier Tennis League (IPTL) in Singapore December 2, 2014.  [Photo/Agencies]

The eight-time Grand Slam winner, 44, went down 6-3 in the Legends singles as the hosts, the Singapore Slammers, lost 29-21 to the Manila Mavericks on day one of the new team competition's second leg.

Agassi likened the IPTL's quickfire format, with one-set matches hurried along by a 20-second serve clock, to the pressure of facing his archrival, 14-time Slam champion Pete Sampras.

"I was shockingly uncomfortable today," Agassi said at Singapore Indoor Stadium.

"It was just the pressure of it ... so many times I felt that way against Pete because if you just lose concentration for a second on your serve, the set could be over with.

"And so every point was vital, that's part of the game. But with this format, it's that way with everybody, every match. It's a pretty difficult environment to play high-end tennis."

The new rules and scoring brought confusion, including in the final match when Serena Williams and Kirsten Flipkens dissolved into giggles as Williams realized she needed seven straight games to win the tie for Singapore.

When asked by the on-court interviewer afterwards how it felt to beat the world No 1, Flipkens pointed to the scoreboard and said: "I didn't, she's still up 6-5."

Nenad Zimonjic was perplexed when he lost a game point by dropping his toss while trying for a second serve and even the DJ had trouble keeping up when he played bursts of music while players were serving.

Agassi said teething problems were to be expected in a tournament which only started on Friday in Manila and will move on to New Delhi and Dubai over the next 11 days.

"Those things are being worked out day-to-day but we're only a few days into it, everybody's getting a lot more comfortable," he said.

"You can't ever say that the pillars of the sport will morph into this, that's a stretch. We're a sport of great tradition," Agassi continued.

"And nor do I think it necessarily should but this needs to be a supplement to it, in my opinion ... I just think there's too many wins not to find a place in the year for those that choose to do it."

Williams, returning to the arena where she won the WTA Finals in October, looked far from full fitness but said it was an "amazing" start to her preseason preparations.

"I definitely would see myself playing this every year. It's a great environment to be involved in, and it's fun and it's a great way to get ready for the preseason," she said.

In an earlier tie, Ana Ivanovic and Gael Monfils led the Indian Aces to a comprehensive 30-11 win over Marin Cilic's UAE Royals.

Glitz and glamor

The tournament kicked off in Manila last Friday and will proceed to Delhi before concluding in Dubai on Dec 13, the event mirroring its India-based cricket counterpart by adding bright lights, glitz, glamor and audience participation to a fast-paced format.

Additional touches include a 20-second serve clock, a 'Happiness Power Point' joker that scores double and can be played once per set, no advantages, no lets, coaching timeouts and a five-minute shootout if a match is tied at 5-5.

Ridiculed by some observers as little more than an extravagant series of exhibition matches, Williams jumped to the defense of the tournament, saying it was an ideal mix of fun and competition.

"I came into this thinking it was going to be fun and a blast but not good preparation (for the new season). However, after I played in Manila I realized this is a great way to prepare for the preseason," she said.

"I can only see it growing as it's such a great fun opportunity and all the (Singapore) players are supporting it. We are not happy to keep losing but we did the best we could.

"Maybe we need to relax a little bit as we are trying too hard because we want to win so bad."

After four rounds of matches the Indian Aces lead on 16 points, ahead of the Manila Mavericks and UAE Royals on 11 points with Singapore propping up the table on six.

(China Daily 12/04/2014 page23)