Mumbai, Nov 24: Delhi Dreams inched closer to a place in the final of the inaugural Champions Tennis League (CTL) by outsmarting Mumbai Tennis Masters by three matches to two in the best-of-five one-set clashes here.
The decisive blow from Delhi, who ended the three-team North Zone round robin on home and away basis with three wins and a lone loss (3 points), was struck by a not fully-fit Kevin Anderson of South Africa who easily overcame a tired-looking Spaniard Tommy Robredo, playing his third match, 6-1 in the fifth rubber when match scores were tied 2-all.
The bean-pole-like 28-year-old South African, currently ranked 16th in the world, jumped to a 4-0 lead with his strong serves and powerful ground shots. Though 32-year-old Robredo, a former world No 5 and five-time French Open quarter-finalist, pulled one back by breaking his rival's serve in the fifth, there was enough arsenal in Anderson's tank to break him back immediately and then hold serve comfortably for a thumping 6-1 verdict.
Delhi's game-wise advantage over Mumbai at the end of the clash stood at a commanding 30-18. Delhi have won 11 matches and lost 9 as compared to Mumbai's poor 6-9 and third team Punjab Marshals' 8-7. The League organisers have clarified in a media release that the winners of North and South group round robin matches would be decided by number of matches won and lost.
Should there be a tie, in matches won and lost, then the team with the most number of games would move into the final. The last North Zone league game is scheduled between Mumbai and Punjab Marshals and the final is to be held at Delhi on November 26.
Juan Carlos Ferrero wins opener
Delhi, who went into the game with two wins and a loss under their belt, were given a 1-0 lead by 2003 French Open winner Juan Carlos Ferrero when he defeated Mumbai's two-time former Roland Garros champion Sergi Bruguera 6-3 in a battle of two Spaniard veterans.
This was neutralised by the home team's Robredo and Alize Cornet of France with a come-from-behind 6-4 victory over Delhi's Sanam Singh, standing in for a less-than-fully-fit Anderson, and Jelena Jankovich. In the third women's singles rubber, Jankovic of Serbia defeated her French rival Cornet 5-4 in the tie break after the game scores were level at 5-all for a 6-5 verdict to provide Delhi with a 2-1 advantage in the number of matches.
Mumbai fought back gamely by winning the men's doubles when lanky Indian Sriram Balaji partnered Robredo to edge out Ferrero and Sanam 6-5 in the fourth match of the tie. But the home team's hopes were later dashed by a clinically efficient display by Anderson against a visibly tired Robredo in the tie-clinching fifth rubber.