Serena Williams returned to the scene of her WTA Finals win but could not prevent her Singapore Slammers team slumping to a fourth straight defeat in the inaugural International Premier Tennis League (IPTL) on Tuesday.
The world number one is the highest-profile player participating in the four-city mixed team event at Singapore's Indoor Stadium this week but it was the unbeaten Delhi-based Indian Aces who continued to dominate the early proceedings.
The Aces were on court first as a sparse crowd witnessed the form side of the tournament ease to a 30-11 victory over the UAE Royals in the five one-set format tie that is decided on games won rather than overall set victories.
Playing in front of a packed arena in the night session, Williams won her match against Belgian Kirsten Flipkens but lost the mixed doubles, partnering Australia's Nick Kyrgios, as her team fell 29-21 to the Manila Mavericks.
The tournament kicked off in Manila on Friday and will proceed to Delhi before concluding in Dubai on Dec. 13, the event mirroring its India-based cricket counterpart by adding bright lights, glitz, glamour and audience participation to a fast-paced format.
Additional touches include a 20-second serve clock, a 'Happiness Power Point' joker that scores double and can be played once per set, no advantages, no lets, coaching timeouts and a five-minute shootout if a match is tied at 5-5.
Ridiculed by some observers as little more than an extravagant series of exhibition matches, Williams jumped to the defence of the tournament, saying it was an ideal mix of fun and competition.
"I came into this thinking it was going to be fun and a blast but not good preparation (for the new season). However, after I played in Manila I realised this is a great way to prepare for the pre-season," Williams told reporters.
"I can only see it growing as it's such a great fun opportunity and all the players are supporting it. We are not happy to keep losing but we did the best we could.
"Maybe we need to relax a little bit as we are trying too hard because we want to win so bad," said Williams who won the WTA Finals here in October.
After four rounds of matches the Indian Aces lead on 16 points, ahead of the Manila Mavericks and UAE Royals on 11 points with Singapore propping up the table on six points.