BARCLAYS ATP WORLD TOUR FINALS 2012
Paes/Stepanek Qualify For SFs After Win Over Spaniards
by James Buddell|
Third seeds Leander Paes and Radek Stepanek qualified for the semi-finals of the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals on Thursday after they won their second Group A match against sixth seeds Marcel Granollers and Marc Lopez 7-5, 6-4 in one hour and 32 minutes.
Paes and Stepanek lost just five of their service points in the first set, which lasted 46 minutes. They created one set point opportunity on Lopez’s serve in the 12th game, after Paes hit a forehand down the line, which Granollers volleyed into the net. Stepanek was aggressive on a backhand return and targetted Granollers with a volley and backhand to the volley. Granollers, on the defensive, could only hit long.
Granollers and Lopez regrouped to earn three break point chances in the first game of the second set. Stepanek, serving at 15/40, thanks to a sprightly Paes for a smash and volley winner to return to deuce. On the sudden death points, Granollers went for broke, hitting a powerful return, which Stepanek could not pick up. Granollers confirmed the break for 2-0 with a hold to 30.
Paes, a four-time former runner-up with two different partners, making his 14th appearance at the season-ending championships, looked to steady the ship by drawing on his experience. The Indian-Czech team gained parity in the set by breaking Lopez to 15. Clever inter-play, by both teams, ended when Lopez hit an angled backhand slice wide.
But Paes and Stepanek’s celebrations were short-lived. Stepanek lost his serve, volleying into the net at 30/40, for a third successive service break and Granollers then clinched a 4-2 lead. Momentum in the set continued to swing back and forth as Lopez was again broken to 15 for 4-4. Paes and Stepanek grew in confidence and at 5-4 broke Granollers for the match and a place in the semi-finals.
The duo won 28 of their 35 service points, converting four of their eight break point opportunities. Paes and Stepanek, this year’s Australian Open (d. Bryans), Sony Open Tennis (d. Mirnyi-Nestor) and Shanghai Rolex Masters (d. Bhupathi-Bopanna) titlists, are now 32-9 on the season.
Granollers and Lopez won just 11 of their 25 service points. Playing one-up and one back for the majority of the match, they could not match Paes and Stepanek in net play. They fall to 37-16 on the season, which includes a 2-4 record in ATP World Tour finals. The pair are the first Spaniards to compete at the championships since Sergio Casal and Emilio Sanchez in 1994.
Watch post-match interview with Paes/Stepanek