Raptors look to hit back

Bengaluru franchise take on Marathas in their second clash today

Raptors look to hit back

The mushrooming of a myriad franchise based leagues in the country has, to some extent, whetted the appetite of sports fans across the Garden City.

Be it watching cricketers Chris Gayle or AB de Villiers (Royal Challengers Bangalore), kabaddi stars Ajay Thakur and Manjit Chillar (Bengaluru Bulls) or shuttlers P Kashyap and Carsten Mogensen (Banga Beats), the people in the City have turned up in numbers to cheer on 'their' side.

A new chapter will be added when the nascent Champions Tennis League (CTL), the Vijay Amritraj founded enterprise, rolls up for the Bengaluru leg here at the KSLTA on Thursday and Friday.

And representing the Bangalore Raptors will be seven-time singles Grand Slam champion Venus Williams, World No 14 Feliciano Lopez, former Australian Open finalist Thomas Enqvist and upcoming Indian player Ramkumar Ramanathan.

On the face of it, the Raptors do have the their task cut out if they have to trump both their zonal opponents - Pune Marathas (Thursday, 5.00 pm) and the Hyderabad Aces (Friday, 8.00 pm).

And having already suffered a defeat in their opening encounter against the Aces on Monday, they need to hit the ground running during the home leg.

Their first challenge in the double header is a Pune side who have the eclectic Marcos Baghdatis and the mercurial Agnieszka Radwanska in their side, apart from the Australian Pat Cash and the Indian doubles specialist Saketh Myneni.

The Polish Radwansksa, who was a losing semifinalist at the WTA Finals in Singapore, will fancy her chances of taking down Venus, a colossus who has fallen and shrunk in size since she won back-to-back Wimbledon titles in 2007 and 08. 

She did begin the year with a victory – a triumph at the Dubai Open in February but has since lost her way. Radwanska, on the other hand, has been a consistent performer throughout the year and in fact beat Venus in the final of the Montreal Open in August.

Dad’s army

While the dad's army clash between Cash, 49, and Enqvist, 40, will kickstart the proceedings, the encounter between Lopez and Baghdatis, the Cypriot who enjoys a cult following on the Tour, is the one that has the potential to put bums on seats.

Two of the more prominent nearly men in the circuit, both Lopez, who has won a staggering four Davis Cup titles, and Baghdatis have a bit of a reputation for playing long matches.

Both the players have had double digit fifth set scorelines in Grand Slams.
While most Spaniards’ game are so baseline oriented that they only come to the net to shake their opponents’ hands at the end of a match, Lopez is one of those players who is comfortable with serve and volleying. But Baghdatis is a tenacious customer.

The Spaniard, who has a 39-26 win-loss record for this season, does start favourite against Baghdatis, but the Cypriot enjoys a superior 3-1 head-to-head record.

One suspects Lopez, who looks like the lead singer of a boy band rather than a tennis player, will have to defy the record if the hosts are to have any chance.

Thursday’s fixtures: Bangalore Raptors vs Pune Marathas: 5.00 pm: Legends singles: Thomas Enqvist vs Pat Cash; Mixed doubles: Feliciano Lopez/ Venus Williams vs Marcos Baghdatis/ Agnieszka Radwanska; Women’s singles: Venus Williams vs Agnieszka Radwanska; Men’s doubles: Feliciano Lopez/ Ramkumar Ramanathan vs Marcos Baghdatis/ Saketh Myneni; Men’s singles: Feliciano Lopez vs Marcos Baghdatis.

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