By: Jane Voigt
The 2014 ATP World Tour Finals has quickly become an excellent promotion for doubles.
Seven singles matches have been played, but not a single one has required a final set. In fact, the team of Jean-Julien Rojer and Horia Tecau, seeded No. 5, won more games in one set today than WTF debutante Marin Cilic has won in the entire tournament. He has played two matches thus far, first losing to Novak Djokovic, 6-1 6-1, today to Tomas Berdych, 6-3 6-1.
All those lucky doubles fans out there should feel vindicated. They have known all along where the sweet spot in tennis is.
The gloomy news for the second-best team of the year — Rojer and Tecau — was the negative payoff. They lost to Alexander Peya and Bruno Soares (No. 3) on Monday, 6-3 3-6 12-10. Against top seeds Bob and Mike Bryan, Rojer and Tecau let slip a set and break lead and paid the highest price, losing in another super-tiebreak, 6-7(4) 6-3 10-6.
The loss will be more than a disappointment, having had a 4-1 in the tiebreak.
The Bryans are the ones to beat in London, at any tournament for that matter. They have been at the top of their sport for years and will likely remain so until the 36-year-olds stuff their Prince racquets into their court bags for the last time. So, when a team has them a set and a break to the good, that duo has to remain focused, brave, and mentally sound.
In stark contrast to those necessities, both Rojer and Tecau fumbled at the most critical time: during the tiebreak. Rojer’s head, which is usually lifted as he flashes his endearing smile, dropped. Tecau’s mood shifted sour as well, their feelings easily transmitted to one another after months together on Tour. At the net, Rojer connected with volleys late. His feet were stationary, a sign of nerves and a bleak attitude.
Rojer and Tecau are now out of the tournament. For the team that won eight titles in 2014 – second only to Mike and Bob Bryan’s nine – their exit will sting. However, they plan to stick together for 2015, per Eric Butorac on Tennis Channel.
Getting a jump on the new year will put them in good stead. Their priorities are strong, which is duly reflected in their season’s record. “We are friends first,” Rojer told the press at Citi Open in Washington D.C., after winning the title. “We can say things to each other and we don’t get too upset. We work hard and enjoy competing.”
Robert Lindstedt and Lukas Kubot (No. 8) have been the surprise team in London. This is Kubot’s first time at the event; with partner Lindstedt, they squeaked in as the last seed thanks to a victory at the Australian Open. The team’s style was quite different to that of their opponents, Bruno Soares and Alexander Peya (No. 3).
Lindstedt and Kubot were the power players. They swung fast, and went for broke on a large percentage of points. However, both men hit feathery volleys, angled perfectly. Their biggest asset was belief; they played without reservation.
In the tiebreak, they took off like rockets to a 5-0 lead with big serving from both, one from Kubot clocking at 127 M.P.H. to put them closer to the win at 6-2.
The door closed at 8-6 with Soares serving. He double faulted, handing a golden opportunity to Kubot. Final scoreline — 6-4 3-6 10-6. Instead of Bryanesque chest bumps, Kubot celebrated their victory with his signature Can-Can, looking more like a Radio City Music Hall Rockette than tennis expert.
But, hey, variety is the spice of life.
With their win, Kubot and Lindstedt have won Group A and have qualified for the semifinals. They’ve won both round-robin matches, the first over Bob and Mike Bryan. If the Americans can beat Peya and Soares on Friday, they will earn the other berth. In Group B, Ivan Dodig and Marcelo Melo have also qualified for a semifinal.
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