New Delhi: Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer produced an exhilarating display of quality tennis with the 'Man from Mallorca' having the last laugh on what turned out to be a blockbuster conclusion to the International Premier Tennis League's India leg, here on Saturday.
Nadal-led defending champions Indian Aces maintained their stranglehold on the championship with a comfortable 30-19 win over Federer's UAE Royals.
More than 10,000 fans turned up to watch the much-awaited contest between the two greats of the game and it was Nadal who emerged as the clear crowd favourite as well representing the local team.
The 'King of Clay', clearly enjoying the adulation, smiled and waved at the adoring fans who shouted their lungs out chanting "Rafa......Rafa".
The crowds stayed away from the matches on the first two days but came out in good numbers to watch the two superstars of the game.
Nadal broke the Swiss legend in the first game with a backhand winner and served out the next game at love to take a 2-0 lead. Federer broke back in the fourth game, with his stunning single-handed backhand shots enthralling the crowd.
Nadal broke the Swiss again in the fifth game in which the chair umpire forgot that there is no LET rule in the IPTL and asked the players to replay the point when Federer’s serve touched the net.
By the time he realized his mistake the players from the two teams had started making fun of him. Amid raucous laughter, the official had no choice but to put hands on his head and acknowledge the slip.
Once the match re-started, Nadal led 4-2 with another hold. Federer served a double fault to hand two match points to Nadal. He saved both and also won the deciding point on deuce to stretch the set.
The Spaniard went 0-30 down serving for the set and the crowd went berserk, now rallying behind the Swiss. Nadal saved the first break point but hit a forehand error in the second and it all boiled down to a shootout.
Nadal led 5-1 but Federer rallied to take three points in a row to reduce the margin to 5-4 in some heart-stopping action. Nadal eventually won when Federer hit an unforced error as the Spaniard raised his hands in celebration.
Earlier, Leander Paes' Japan Warriors frittered away a good start to go down 21-24 against Singapore Slammers in the first match of the day.
This was the Warriors' sixth loss in seven matches, their only win coming against UAE Royals in the ongoing India Leg, which concludes on Saturday.
The Singapore Slammers did not make the best of starts with Carlos Moya going down 2-6 to Swedish veteran Thomas Enqvist. It was a disappointing performance by Moya, who was broken twice by Enqvist.
However, Kristina Pliskova and Dustin Brown pulled things back for the Slammers by upstaging Kirsten Flipkens and Indian veteran Paes 6-4.
The Indian, who had earlier complained about not being picked for the mixed doubles clashes by his team, was visibly rattled by the loss and was seen engaged in an animated discussion with teammate Marat Safin, who warmed the bench for a third successive day.
Paes, however, made amends by teaming up with Philipp Kohlschreiber to defeat Marcelo Melo and Nick Kyrgios 6-4 in the men's doubles set.
But prior to that, the Warriors had suffered a huge setback when Flipkens was outplayed 1-6 by Belinda Bencic in the women's singles.
At the end of the four matches, the Slammers held a slender one-point lead, placed at 18-17. It all boiled down to the men's singles clash between the temperamental Kyrgios and Kohlschreiber.
Kyrgios, the 20-year-old Australian showman who entertained both with his tennis and playful antics on the court, broke Kohlschreiber in the seventh game.
However, erratic strokeplay cost Kyrgios the very next game and the set went into a shootout. In the tie-breaker, Kyrgios relied on a powerful serve to close the issue in his favour.