Klaasen and Ram serve up a storm
South Africa's Raven Klaasen and his doubles partner Rajeev Ram of the US caused an upset at the ATP World Tour Finals in London yesterday.
They defeated Frenchmen Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut, who are vying to become the year-end No1 pair in the ATP doubles team rankings.
Klaasen and Ram won 7-5 6-4 in 83 minutes in a Group Fleming-McEnroe round-robin encounter, which avenged their loss to Herbert and Mahut in this year's final of the Miami Open.
Had Herbert and Mahut won the match, then Mahut would have become the first Frenchman in the 40-year history of the ATP doubles rankings to finish as the year-end individual No1.
Herbert and Mahut are now just 375 points ahead of Jamie Murray and Bruno Soares in the fight to be the leading team for this year. A total of 1500 points are up for grabs at the season finale this week.
Klaasen and Ram settled quickly and almost broke Herbert's serve on a deciding deuce point in the first game. With good defence at the net, they kept the pressure on their opponents and reaped a break of Mahut's serve to 30 for a 4-2 lead.
Ram held three set-point chances on serve but tremendous returns and reactions, particularly from Mahut, secured three straight points and the break.
Klaasen and Ram immediately regrouped and on a second serve, on a deciding deuce point, Klaasen fired a backhand winner down the line past Herbert for a 6-5 advantage. Minutes later, he calmly served out the 44-minute opener.
In the second set, Herbert and Mahut upped the ante and played disciplined tennis on return of serve. At 1-2, Klaasen faced two break points but wriggled out of the game after Ram framed a forehand volley winner on the deciding deuce point.
In the next game, Ram forced the break of Herbert's serve for a 3-2 lead. They then remained in control and kept their nerve to record their first victory at the season finale.
There was also an upset in the singles when Kei Nishikori of Japan beat Stan Wawrinka 6-2 6-3.
It was 26-year-old Nishikori's second win over the 31-year-old Swiss in three meetings this year.
Nishikori, who reached the last four on his 2014 debut, settled quickly but could not convert two break point opportunities in the first game.
The Japanese star lost just five of his service points in the 52-minute opener, and broke Wawrinka in the fifth and seventh games.
Nishikori kept hitting his groundstrokes deep, ultimately hitting 19 winners to Wawrinka's 31 unforced errors.
Nishikori broke for a third time for a 3-2 advantage, then coolly closed out his 58th match win of the season. Wawrinka leads their head-to-head clashes 4-2.
Earlier in the tournament, Milos Raonic of Canada beat Frenchman Gael Monfils 6-3 6-4, while former world No1 Serb Novak Djokovic had an initial scare before overcoming Austria's Dominic Thiem 6-7 6-0 6-2.
Raonic will next play Djokovic.
In yesterday's late match, Scot and world No1 Andy Murray met the hard-serving Marin Cilic of Croatia.