Cape Town - South Africa's Raven Klaasen and American Rajeev Ram caused an upset on Monday at the ATP World Tour Finals when they defeated French pair Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut, who are vying to become the year-end No 1 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 No 1. Herbert and Mahut are now just 375 points ahead of Jamie Murray and Bruno Soares in the fight to as the No 1 team for 2016. A total of 1 500 points is 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, Klaasen and Ram 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, at 5-4, 40/15 - including the deciding deuce point - 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, Klaasen 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. Mahut screamed in anguish, but worse was to come. In the next game, quick reactions at the net by Ram forced the break of Herbert’s serve for a 3-2 lead. Klaasen and Ram remained in control, not overplaying against their higher-ranked opponents, and kept their nerve to record their first win at the season finale.
Klaasen, 34, and 32-year-old Ram are now 32-20 on the season, which includes two ATP World Tour titles at the Gerry Weber Open in Halle (beat Kubot/Peya) and the Chengdu Open (beat Carreno Busta/Fyrstenberg). Herbert and Mahut, chasing their sixth title of the year, dropped to 41-11 mark in 2016.
Klaasen said that he that he and Ram played well at the important moments and executed the game plan accordingly. “It was a big much needed win against the top seeds and gets our campaign off to a positive start. Stepping out onto the O2 Arena was in itself a challenge and wow what a fabulous experience it was, being able to avenge our defeat in Miami against the Frenchmen in such an atmosphere.”