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Marray/Nielsen Continue Odyssey; First To Qualify For SFs

London, England

Marray, Nielsen© Getty ImagesJonathan Marray (right) and Frederik Nielsen celebrate reaching the semi-finals of the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals.

Eighth seeds Jonathan Marray and Frederik Nielsen became the first doubles team to qualify for the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals on Wednesday when they defeated second seeds and defending champions Max Mirnyi and Daniel Nestor 7-6(3), 4-6, 12-10 in one hour and 41 minutes to improve to a 2-0 record in Group B.

“We’re pretty surprised we're through after two matches,” said Marray. “It wasn't something we really talked about. We were just coming here to try to enjoy and try to perform to the best of our abilities really. We can enjoy the next match really. There's no pressure on us again really. It's really a great situation, I think.”

Nielsen said, “We were aware of the fact we were underdogs, [the] lowest ranked team, a special exempt due to a loophole in the rules.  That's obviously something different. At the same time we're comfortable being here level wise. We weren't here just to make up the numbers." 

Regardless of results, Marray and Nielsen will win Group B. The second qualifying place will be taken by the winner of Mirnyi and Nestor versus fifth seeds Mahesh Bhupathi and Rohan Bopanna on Friday.

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Marray survived sudden death deuce in the sixth game, before the British-Danish team broke Nestor, again on a deciding point, to take a 4-3 lead. Mirnyi and Nestor, who went undefeated en route to the title last year, won three straight games from 3-5. They took a 2-0 lead in the tie-break before Marray and Nielsen won five straight points. The pair, playing their seventh tour-level event, hit three aces in the tie-break to wrap up the set in 49 minutes.

Nielsen squandered a 40/15 lead in the first game of the 35-minute second set, hitting two double faults. Mirnyi and Nielsen later came through deciding point games en route to a Match tie-break. Marray and Nielsen took a 2-0, 5-3 and 7-5 lead in the decider, but failed to take control. They missed their first match point at 9-8, before saving one themselves at 9-10. The eighth seeds clinched a famous victory when Nestor hit a volley long. 

“I thought we did well to get the break in the first set, then I actually put in a bit of a soft game to lose my serve serving at 5 4,” admitted Marray. “I thought Freddie played well at the end of the first set to pull us through the tie-break.

"In the Match tie-break, I thought we both played really well actually. I served a lot better than I had been the whole match. Freddie, I thought, played pretty well throughout. Obviously it was pretty tense there at the end and we came out with some big first serves when we needed it."

Marray and Nielsen added to their 6-4, 6-7(1), 12-10 win over Bhupathi and Bopanna, when they saved match two points, to improve to a 10-4 season record. In July, they captured the Wimbledon crown.

Marray is the first native-born Briton to play doubles in the season-ending championships. South African-born Neil Broad, who played in 1990 and 1996 in finale, was member of British Davis Cup team in 1991. Nielsen, grandson of 1950s great Kurt Nielsen, is the first Dane to qualify for tournament.

Despite winning 82 per cent of their first service points, Mirnyi and Nestor dropped to a 42-17 match record on the season, which includes four titles in six finals. They beat fourth seeds Robert Lindstedt and Horia Tecau Monday, saving one match point in a 4-6, 7-6(1), 12-10 win.

Four-time champion Nestor, making his 14th appearance at the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals, has a 33-20 at the event, while Mirnyi is 20-14 in nine appearance. He also won the 2006 title with Jonas Bjorkman.

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