Maria Sharapova leads Manila Mavericks, US Open titlist Cilic heads UAE Royals as IPTL gets underway
US Open champion Marin Cilic and the UAE Royals see action against Andy Murray and the Manila Mavericks. Jerome Ascano

THE Maria Sharapova-led Manila Mavericks face the UAE Royals as the International Premier Tennis League gets underway on Friday at the MOA Arena.

Sharapova takes on Serbia’s Kristina Mladenovic in the women’s singles to start off the Mavericks’ campaign in the three-day Manila leg of the four-team league.

Ties consist of five matches — men’s singles, women’s singles, men’s doubles, mixed doubles, and legends doubles — with the cumulative points in all the matches as the basis for the winner.

Match-ups are subject to change 25 minutes before the match.

Also seeing action for Manila in the 7:30 p.m. tie is Andy Murray, who will face 2014 US Open champion Marin Cilic, while playing coach and Filipino netter Treat Huey teams up with Daniel Nestor against Cilic and Nenad Zimonjic in the men’s doubles.

Huey will team up with Kirsten Flipkens against Mladenovic and Zimonjic in the mixed doubles, while Carlos Moya battles Goran Ivanesevic in the legends singles.

Sharapova will also play against Ana Ivanovic in Day Two of the competition to wrap up her stint with the Mavericks in the Manila leg.

IPTL chief executive officer Morgan Menahem said the league tries to make the sport attractive to casual sports fans by speeding up the game with a 20-second shot clock and limiting the matches to within three hours.

“We are not disrespecting the rules. We are adding flavor to the game,” said Menahem during Thursday’s press conference at the Edsa Shangrila Hotel.

“The format is something brand new. Tennis is not a great game for television so we want to make it more exciting.”

In the first tie on Friday, the Indian Aces take on the Singapore Slammers at 4 p.m.

Serena Williams of the Singapore Slammers will compete on the third and final day on Sunday against the Manila Mavericks as she battles Kirsten Flipkens.

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