Saturday proved a step too far for Joe Salisbury & Rajeev Ram, who led by a set and a break, and were 7-1 up in the match tiebreak, but lost 6-7(7) 6-3 [11-9] to Edouard Roger-Vasselin & Jurgen Melzer. and, in so doing, let the No 1 World ranking slip out of their grasp.
It's tough losing that but I don't really feel like we deserved to be in the final," he said. "It wasn't a great quality tie-break. We were up a lot but they hit two double faults. Obviously, we should win from that point. Joe Salisbury
The Anglo/American pair even had a match point to their credit, and looked virtually certain to win, but Austrian Melzer and France’s Roger-Vasselin won 7 points in a row to claim the spot in the final.
“We got off to a bad start but then I felt like we were on top for most of the match,” Salisbury said. “I’m not sure what happened.
“We were up a break in the second, lost our serve and then things kind of went against us.
Salisbury, 28, would have been the second Briton to reach a final at the season-ending championships after Andy Murray in the singles in 2016, but suffers disappointment instead.
Meanwhile Melzer & Roger-Vasselin go up against Croatian Nikola Mektic & Dutchman Wesley Koolhof in the doubles final at 3.30pm on Sunday, while Mate Pavic & Bruno Soares will finish the season ranked No 1 in doubles.
Salisbury had to self-isolate in the build-up to the tournament after his coach tested positive for coronavirus and admitted the pair had not played very well on their way to the last four.
“It’s tough losing that but I don’t really feel like we deserved to be in the final,” he said. “It wasn’t a great quality tie-break.
“We were up a lot but they hit two double faults. Obviously, we should win from that point.”
Salisbury & Ram’s battling efforts had carried them through to the semi-finals but they didn’t make the best of starts on Saturday evening when Ram lost his serve.
The 2nd seeds quickly restored parity and deservedly won the tight opening set and after earning an early break in the second, they looked to be in complete control, but Ram missed a simple volley on serve for a 3-1 lead.
It signalled an inopportune dip in form that allowed Melzer & Roger-Vasselin to reel off 5 games in a row to level proceedings, despite Salisbury & Ram having 2 break point chances to get back on serve, but couldn’t take either, and finding themselves in a deciding match tiebreak.
The Anglo-American pair dominated the early exchanges of the breaker but Melzer & Roger-Vasselin produced another remarkable comeback, sealing victory on their first match point when the Austrian hit a winner between Ram and Salisbury at the net.
Only coming out of isolation two days before the tournament, Salisbury was despondent but unsurprised.
“To be honest I think we did quite well to get to the semi-final here because I don’t think we played very well,” he said.
Melzer makes two Austrians in Nitto ATP Finals on Sunday, after Dominic Thiem beat Novak Djokovic in the men’s singles semi-final.
“I try to enjoy it as much as I can because tomorrow is my last match as a real professional player,” Melzer said. “It is kind of sad, but it is a great story to end with.
“Being in the final of the Nitto ATP Finals is just amazing. I would not have dreamt of this if you would have told me after the US Open that we are going to be here at the end of the year.
“I will try to enjoy it as much as I can, soak it all up, soak it and that’s me tomorrow.”
Roger Vasselin added: “We are just to be in the final. We lost the first match in the round robin, so after that we were like: ‘Okay, we have nothing else to lose.
“We will just fight until the last point. That is what we are going to do tomorrow, fight from the first to the last point no matter what’. “
Pavic & Soares have clinched the year-end Number 1 Doubles Team Ranking at the end of a successful 2020 season.
The Croatian and Brazilian team completed Group Bob Bryan with a 2-1 record and both players had already reached the top spot in the past with other doubles partner: Pavic with Oliver Marach, while Soares teamed up with Jamie Murray, a partnership that will be reinstated next season.
They won their final Group Bob Bryan, but they did not qualify for the semi-finals, but they did land their first Grand Slam team title at the US Open and finished as runners-up in two finals at Roland Garros and at the Paris Rolex Masters in Paris Bercy.
“I am very happy for Bruno and myself to end the year number 1, especially after everything that happened yesterday,” said Pavic.
Earlier in the day, No 5 seeds Wesley Koolhof & Nikola Mektic handed a straight-set defeat to the 4th-seeded Marcel Granollers & Horacio Zeballos, 6-3 6-4, making the final in their first team appearance at The O2 Arena.
Koolhof & Mektic, who finished No 1 in Group Mike Bryan, pressured Spain’s Granollers & Zeballos from Argentina early on but failed to make either of their 2 break points in the second game.
They did break at their 3rd opportunity in the 8th game to open a 5-3 lead, before routinely serving out for the opener in the following game.
Koolhof & Mektic then broke Granollers & Zeballos in the 3rd game of the second, and held on for the rest of the way to seal a straight-set win.
“We are reaching almost every goal this year so far,” Koolhof said after the match. “The first goal was to play here, then play our first Grand Slam final, qualify from the group here and now we are in the final.”
“So far, it has been a dream week,” added Mektic. “One more to go tomorrow and we are ready to celebrate.”
Ranked at No 14 in doubles, Mektic was thrilled with the way he and Koolhof performed.
“We played really well. From the start, we were very focussed. We did not make any mistakes. We did not give them any chances,” Mektic said.
Koolhof & Mektic are aiming to win their first title as a team after finishing runners-up in Marseille and at the US Open.