BARCLAYS ATP WORLD TOUR FINALS 2012
Marray/Nielsen Save 2 M.P. To Win Group B Opener Versus Bhupathi/Bopanna
by James Buddell|
Eighth seeds Jonathan Marray and Frederik Nielsen, who captured the Wimbledon title this year, defeated in-form Indians and fifth seeds Mahesh Bhupathi and Rohan Bopanna 6-4, 6-7(1), 12-10 in Group B on Tuesday at the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals in London. The British-Danish duo saved two match points at 8-9 and 9-10 in the Match tie-break.
At 4-5 in the first set, Bopanna faced three set points. He saved one, but at 30/40 Marray wriggled his way out of a body serve to hit a forehand return to Bopanna’s feet, which the Indian could not hit cleanly. Marray and Nielsen lost seven of their service points in the 33-minute set.
Bhupathi and Nielsen both struggled, at times, to hold serve in the second set, but at 5-5 Marray faced a sudden death deuce. Bhupathi hit a backhand return into the net. The 38-year-old Indian fell to 0/30, for the second straight service game, but again recovered to 30/30 before Nielsen forced a match point opportunity. Marray’s backhand return hit the top of the tape, destined to fall beyond Bopanna’s reach.
In the tie-break, Bhupathi and Bopanna raised their games, firing pin-point accurate returns to their net-rushing opponents to take a 4-0 lead and won six of seven points. Last week’s BNP Paribas Masters champions also took control of the net against a pair who are competing in just their sixth tour-level tournament.
Nielsen was targetted at the net, as the Indians carried their momentum into the Match tie-break to open up a 5-1 advantage. But Marray and Nielsen fought back, capitalising on half chances, to lead 8-7. Bhupathi and Bopanna could not take one match point chance at 9-8, but Bopanna hit a backhand return winner past Nielsen to give Bhupathi a second shot at victory. Clever inter-play at the net, ended when Marray hit an acrobatic smash for 10-all. Bopanna then double-faulted, leaving Nielsen to serve out the encouter, which lasted one hour and 37 minutes.
“Obviously we got off to a bit of a slow start,” said Marray. “They served really well and hit their spots on the serve. It was kind of difficult to get into that. But we kind of dug deep and stuck in there. Obviously, you know, found a way with a few strange little points to get back into the match tie-break."
Nielsen added, “In doubles, especially at this level, it comes down to key points here and there, how you use the momentum of those points. They saved the match point at 6-5 [in the second set] and they built on that momentum.
“They won the second set tie-break 7-1 and got up 5-1. By that time we were trying to look for that one point that could change the momentum in our favour. The 10-9 point was pretty crazy. We almost let it bounce between us at one point. Luckily Johnny had his Matrix reflexes out and a good agility by the end of the point to get up for the badminton smash.”
Bhupathi is making his 12th appearance at the season finale. He has reached the final on four occasions in 1997, 1999-2000 with Leander Paes and two years ago with Max Mirnyi. Bopanna partnered Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi on his debut last year.
Marray is the first native-born Briton to play doubles in the season-ending championship. South African-born Neil Broad, who played in 1990 and 1996 in finale, was member of British Davis Cup team in 1991. Nielsen is the first Dane to qualify for tournament.
Marray and Nielsen beat fellow Barclays ATP World Tour Finals qualifiers Robert Lindstedt and Horia Tecau in the Wimbledon final. Nielsen was playing Italian league tennis last week, while Marray reached the ATP World Tour Masters 1000 Paris semi-finals with Paul Hanley.
“This is probably the most exclusive tennis tournament there is in the world,” said Nielsen. “I certainly didn't believe I would ever take part. It's a massive experience. It's indescribable how cool it is to be a part of as a player. I think Johnny is the same, we're trying to make the most of every minute. Like I told a lot of the other guys, I'm considering not sleeping just to get it all in.”