Spain’s Marcel Granollers & Argentine Horacio Zeballos upset the World No 1 pairing of Mate Pavic of Croatia & Brazilian Bruno Soares on Day 4 of the Nitto ATP Finals at the O2 in London, while Jurgen Melzer of Austria & Frenchman Edouard Roger-Vasselin saw off Australia’s Michael Venus & John Peers from New Zealand.
They saved two match points [in the match tiebreak] with amazing points, but we were playing really good and we had match point on serve. We had to focus on that point. Horacio served a wide serve and Bruno missed the return… The match was really close and we are very happy. Marcel Granollers
Granollers & Zeballos solidified their position at the top of Group Bob Bryan with a 7-6(4) 6-7(4) [10-8] win over the top seeds, Pavic & Soares, after a 2 hour 4 minute battle.
“They saved two match points [in the match tiebreak] with amazing points, but we were playing really good and we had match point on serve,” said Granollers. “We had to focus on that point.
“Horacio served a wide serve and Bruno missed the return… The match was really close and we are very happy.”
The 4th seeds saved all 6 break points they faced, including 4 deciding points, to boost their chances of reaching the semi-finals in London as they move 2-0 in round-robin play, having also defeated Peers & Venus in straight sets on Monday, but the standings remain close.
The Rome champions would have qualified for the last 4 at The O2 had Peers & Venus defeated Melzer & Roger-Vasselin in the evening session on Wednesday, but the Aussie/Kiwi lost to the No 7 seeds, 2-6 7-6(4) [12-10], so Granollers & Zeballos have to wait the outcome of the group.
Granollers & Zeballos were put under pressure in the first set, but they found big serves to save 3 break points and reached the breaker.
Zeballos found success on his return as he attacked Soares at the net, and then fired an ace out wide to claim the first set.
The second followed a similar pattern, with Granollers & Zeballos holding their nerves to save 3 more break points at the net.
After saving match point on his serve at 5-6, deciding point, Soares extracted a volley error from Granollers and showed great reflexes at the net to level the match.
Granollers & Zeballos outmanoeuvred their opponents at the net with a mix of power and precision to earn a 5/2 lead in the match tiebreak, and converted their 4th match point to end the very tight contest.
“[Marcel] is very positive,” said Zeballos. “He is always trying to go forward, not thinking about the past, and that is really important… I think that is one of the best things we are doing this week.”
As a result, Pavic & Soares drop to 1-1 in Group Bob Bryan, and are attempting to reach the semi-finals at The O2 on their tournament debut together, with just Peers & Venus left to play in their final round-robin match on Friday.
Venus & Peers, however, face an uphill battle to make the semis after suffering their second loss at the hands of Melzer & Roger-Vasselin in an hour 30 minutes.
They must now beat the top seeds and hope that Zeballos & Granollers defeat Melzer & Roger-Vasselin to score the second semi-final spot from the Group determined on a sets and, possibly, a games count back.
On Wednesday, Venus & Peers played a match that they really should have won after dominating play throughout and serving well, but they will rue instead their failure to capitalise on 5 match points.
They got off to a flying start at the O2 Arena, breaking Melzer early and then clinching the set with a second break for 6-2.
Venus, a Kiwi who lives in London and went to college in the United States, wore a black top with neon green flames on his arms and torso, bounced around in between points like a boxer with his shorts on fire, waiting to land some blows, his lethal forehand and strong net play inflicting major damage on the Austrian/French pair.
Peers, the son of former pro tennis player Elizabeth Little and the brother of tennis player Sally Peers, mixed his serve beautifully and held comfortably in the first set.
They continued with their strong serving in the second, which was much tighter as the French/Austrian combination also stepped up on their deliveries.
They had a match point at deuce on Roger-Vasselin’s serve at 4-5, but a good first serve to Peers by the Frenchman saw the chance go begging.
It went to down a tiebreak and Melzer & Roger-Vasselin were the more composed, going up an early break before closing it out 7-4.
The match was decided on a match tiebreak in which Venus & Peers again got on top early for a 7-3 lead, but the gap was closed to 7-6 before Peers won both his service points to take them to the cusp of victory with 3 more match points.
They couldn’t convert on any of them, though, and when Melzer came up with a brilliant return of serve to pass Venus, the breaker was level at 10-10.
Venus made a clutch volley to set up a 5th match point at 11-10, but Melzer held serve twice to set up a first match point for the 7th seeds and, as the Kiwi dumped a smash into the net, Melzer & Roger-Vasselin were handed an unlikely victory.
After saving 5 match points, Melzer & Roger-Vasselin had not created a single break point in the match but still prevailed in a thrilling, come-from-behind win, 2-6,7-6(4) [12-1] over the No 6 seeds.
“I picked up my game after the first set; that was the key,” Melzer said in an on-court interview after the match. “I couldn’t have played worse in the first set.
“We said we’re going to stick together no matter what and it paid off.”
His partner said the key was staying positive while down essentially the entire match.
“We just tried our best and fought till the last point and are so happy we got the win,” he said. “In doubles, every point counts.”
And so it does in determining who will progress to the knockout stage.