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Vasselin named Philippine Mavericks MVP

MANILA, Philippines – Edouard Roger Vasselin was named the Philippine Mavericks’ MVP for the IPTL (International Premier Tennis League) second season by team manager and co-owner Jean Henri Lhuillier who cited the 32-year-old French veteran the other day for playing in all five legs.

The Mavs led the league in most players deployed with 11 this season. Vasselin joined icon Serena Williams, Category A Milos Raonic, Category B Richard Gasquet, Category C Ivo Karlovic and Ajla Tomljanovic, Category D Jarmila Gajdosova, uncategorized Somdev Devvarman, doubles player Treat Huey and legends Mark Philippoussis and James Blake in the rotation.

Second season champion Singapore and dethroned titlist India were bannered by 10 players each while the Japan Warriors brought in eight and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), seven. Icons Kei Nishikori and Maria Sharapova of Japan, Roger Federer of UAE and Andy Murray of Singapore saw action in only one leg. Category A Stan Wawrinka of Singapore and Category B Gaels Monfils of India also played in one leg.

Federer performed in two of three matches in the Dubai leg. The former World No. 1 (now No. 3) Swiss was a disappointment as he lost in all his sets. Against the Philippines, he teamed with Marin Cilic to lose to Vasselin and Huey, 6-4 and against Singapore, he and Cilic bowed to Andy Murray and Marcelo Melo, 6-5. In singles, Federer was beaten by the Mavericks’ Karlovic, 6-4, and the Slammers’ Murray, 6-4. UAE lost to the Philippines, 26-24 and Singapore, 27-24 in the only ties where Federer played. He sat out the Royals’ third tie against Japan in Dubai.

Lhuillier said the Mavericks were hampered when Williams, Raonic and Gasquet withdrew after the first two legs in Kobe and Manila. That led to a disastrous showing in the third leg in New Delhi where the Philippines was trounced by the Aces, 30-12 and the Slammers, 30-22. Vasselin tried to hold the fort but couldn’t break into the win column as he lost to India’s Rafael Nadal, 6-4, and Singapore’s Nick Kyrgios, 6-5. In men’s doubles, Huey and Vasselin were defeated by India’s Nadal and Rohan Bopanna, 6-4 and Singapore’s Kyrgios and Melo, 6-5.

Lhuillier recruited Karlovic and Blake for the Dubai and Singapore legs to avert a tailspin to the bottom of the ladder. Vasselin, however, remained a mainstay on the court, playing mixed and men’s doubles in Dubai and Singapore and also singles against the Slammers’ Cilic. In the Kobe leg, he teamed with Gasquet to beat the Warriors’ Leander Paes and Pierre Hugues Herbert, 6-5 and the Slammers’ Dustin Brown and Melo, 6-4. In Manila, Vasselin and Gasquet tripped the Royals’ Tomas Berdych and Daniel Nestor, 6-3. In Dubai, Vasselin and Gajdosova defeated the Royals’ Nestor and Kristina Mladenovic, 6-5 and he and Huey drubbed the Royals’ Federer and Cilic, 6-5. In Singapore, he and Huey beat Japan’s Paes and Herbert, 6-5 and the Royals’ Cilic and Nestor, 6-4. Vasselin’s overall tally in individual set results through five legs was seven wins and 11 losses.

“I think Edouard was our MVP,” said Lhuillier. “He was with us in all five legs and played competitively in every set he played in mixed doubles, men’s doubles and singles. We leaned on Edouard when Milos and Richard left with back problems. And even when we brought in Ivo, we continued to play Edouard.”

Karlovic sat out the regular five sets in the Mavericks’ final tie against the Royals in Singapore then was called in to play Cilic in the super shootout to settle the outcome. The Philippines and UAE battled to a 23-all standoff after five sets. Karlovic edged Cilic, 10-9, in the super shootout as the Philippines ended the season on a winning note with a 24-23 squeaker over UAE.

“We won’t know which players will join us for the third season next year until after the draft in March,” said Lhuillier. “(IPTL founder) Mahesh (Bhupathi) will inform us which players are available during the draft. But I’d like Ivo to come back. He played well for us. In Dubai, Ivo upset Federer, 6-4. He’s got a booming serve and I think he’ll be a positive force for us in doubles play and could be a strong back-up in singles next season. Ivo will give us depth.”
Karlovic, 36, played for the Mavericks only in the last two legs in Dubai and Singapore. The 6-11 Croatian veteran’s serve was once timed at 251 kilometers per hour, a world record until overtaken by Australian Sam Groth’s 263 posted in 2012. Karlovic was ranked World No. 14 in 2008 and is now World No. 23 with career earnings of over $6.8 Million and six singles titles. In 2009, he made it to the quarterfinals at Wimbledon.

Lhuillier said his choice as the IPTL second season MVP is Kyrgios. “Like Edoaurd, Kyrgios was the most consistent player on his team,” he said. Singapore won the championship by beating India in the final although the Slammers were second at the end of the eliminations. Against the Philippines, Kyrgios was unbeaten, repulsing Raonic, 6-4, in Kobe and Vasselin, 6-5, in New Delhi. Kyrgios, a Category C player, is ranked World No. 30. His mother Norlaila is Malaysian and father Giorgos is Greek. Kyrgios was born in Canberra and plays as an Australian.

Because the second season had five teams, IPTL organizers scheduled one franchise, UAE, in 12 matches and the others, 11. To even out the results, the Royals were allowed to scratch one match and they chose their 29-18 loss to the Mavericks in Manila. The Philippines, however, retained the points in the match. The Mavericks finished the season with a 6-5 record in matches and a win-loss rate of 48.1 percent for fourth place. The Royals had a 5-6 record in matches but took third place with a win-loss rate of 50 percent on 264 games won and lost.