The World Tennis League, the newly-created invitational team competition, kicked off in Dubai on Monday with the Kites coming from behind to defeat the Eagles, 35-27, as a result of Iga Swiatek’s crucial win against Caroline Garcia in the women’s singles rubber.
Here we've got the number one player in the world. Big applause for the number one player in the world, please! She's had an amazing year. If you all followed it, it's been amazing to see her evolve. Felix Auger-Aliassime
There are 3 matches in each of the 6 sessions, featuring a mixed doubles, a women’s singles and men’s singles.
Teams get 1 point for each game they win, plus 5 bonus points for winning most games in a match.
With advantage scoring, a single point wins the game at deuce and, if the players split sets, a match tiebreak is played, with the first to win 10 points taking the spoils.
The tiebreak can be won by a single point margin, while the team manager can call one timeout in each set.
Nick Kyrgios & Bianca Andreescu scored an impressive opening win when they defeated Holger Rune & Eugenie Bouchard in the mixed doubles, 6-2 6-2, to put the Eagles well ahead, but then Swiatek, the World No 1, took out Garcia, the recent WTA Finals champion, 6-3 6-4, to gain the Kites valuable points.
Kyrgios fired an ace to kick off the action, and kept a grip on proceedings in the first set, and although Rune & Bouchard pushed them hard in the second, a break of the latter’s serve gave the Eagles the chance to settle the outcome.
“I thought the chemistry was great right from the start,” Andreescu said of Kyrgios after the win. “We’re both pretty outgoing people so I thought that we’re going to bring great energy and we played very well.
“I think we both have great hands. I think he’s rubbing off on me a little bit on the serve and on the volleys, so hopefully we can keep it going.”
Next up, Swiatek dominated from the outset in a high-quality encounter, taking the majority of the break points in the first set and, although she herself was broken once to be levelled at 2-2, she comfortably rode out the first set.
Because every game counts in the WTL, Swiatek needed a straight sets win to give the Kites a fighting chance of a comeback, which she accomplished with a further early break in the second ahead of cruising to the win in an hour and 7 minutes.
At this stage the Eagles still led the Kites, 19-17, when Kyrgios took on Felix Auger-Aliassime in the men’s singles, the last match of the tie, with all to play for.
After her win against Garcia, Swiatek was asked about her teammate Auger-Aliassime’s chances against Kyrgios in what promised to be a thrilling match between two in-form players, especially in a deciding rubber.
The Pole was quick to respond, saying: “I think Felix is the one who is more solid, so he’s got this.”
When asked about his upcoming match against the Canadian, Kyrgios replied: “Yes and no. I know Felix will be hungry and super, super serious like it’s a Slam final. We’ll have some fun.”
The deciding match produced more entertainment as Auger-Aliassime had to fight his way back after dropping the opening 3 games, but the Canadian rose well to the challenge, and quickly levelled at 3-3 before going on to snatch the first set.
A break for 3-2 in the second proved enough to secure a 7-5 6-3 victory for Auger-Aliassime and, with it, came a 2-1 win for the Kites.
In his on-court interview Auger-Aliassime spoke highly of Swiatek: “Here we’ve got the number one player in the world,” he said, prompting the crowd to cheer for a beaming Swiatek. “Big applause for the number one player in the world, please!
“She’s had an amazing year. If you all followed it, it’s been amazing to see her evolve.”
The World Tennis League 2022 runs from 19-24 December and fans not only get to witness the tennis action but also a music concert at the conclusion of the play each day, headlined by well-known DJs and musicians such as Tiesto and Ne-Yo, among others.
With the 2023 season about to kick off with the United Cup in Australia from 29 December onwards, WTL provides a welcome tune-up for the participants.
Viewers in the UK can follow the WTL action live on The Tennis Channel.
Day 1 Results: Kites def Eagles 2-1 / 35 points to 27 points
- Nick Kyrgios & Bianca Andreescu (Eagles) d Holger Rune & Eugenie Bouchard (Kites), 6-2 6-3
- Iga Swiatek (Kites) d Caroline Garcia (Eagles), 6-3 6-4
- Felix Auger-Aliassime (Kites) d Kyrgios (Eagles), 7-5 6-3
Day 2 Schedule: Falcons v Hawks
- Grigor Dimitrov & Paula Badosa v Dominic Thiem & Sorana Cirstea
- Aryna Sabalenka v Elena Rybakina
- Novak Djokovic v Alexander Zverev