ATP Tour

New partner for SA doubles ace

2015-05-19 10:23
Raven Klaasen (Getty Images)

Cape Town - It was conceived as a dream partnership. Instead Raven Klaasen's surprising pairing with long-time tennis icon Leander Paes earlier in the year has been transformed into something of a nightmare for South Africa's Davis Cup stalwart.

Now, following the break-up with Paes last month and a brief, but unsuccessful pairing with The Czech Republic's Lukas Rosol, an under-pressure Klaasen has settled on a last-minute pairing with Yen-Hsun Lu for next week's French Open.

Lu and Klaasen will have a tentative, warm-up outing together in the current Nice ATP tournament, but the diminutive, 31-year-old Chinese Taipei No 1 is better known for his singles exploits and has a moderate doubles ranking of 187th - making it a long-shot prospect for the South African at the prestigious Roland Garros clay courts.

The 32-year-old Klaasen enjoyed the best year of his tennis career in 2014 in partnership with Eric Butorac, reaching the final of the Australian Open and climbing to a career-best world doubles ranking of 18th, with the break-up with the big-serving American coming like a bolt out of the blue and surprising many.

Initially, Klaasen and India's 41 year-old, eight-times Grand Slam champion Paes won the Heineken Open ATP doubles title in Auckland, New Zealand and were runners-up in the Chennai Open and the Delray Beach Open. But a systematic downward slide in results then gripped and halted the pair's progress.

Unlike the vibrant success of 2014, which included a victory over world No 1 pairing of Bob and Mike Bryan, Klaasen and Paes were bundled out of the Australian Open in the second round.

Then, after second round defeats against Italy's Simone Bolelli and Fabio Fognini at both the Indian Wells and Miami Masters tournaments, the Indo-South African pairing split before the  Monte Carlo Masters event.

Klaasen played with the Netherlands' Robin Haase in Monte Carlo, while Paes linked up with 43-year-old Canadian veteran Daniel Nestor, also an eight-times Grand Slam winner. But both new combinations made second round exits.

Klaasen's coach and manager, Stephan de Kock, said afterwards his charge would partner Rosol for the remainder of the European clay court season. But Rosol is principally a singles player and this partnership was effectively still-born as well.

De Kock added that Klaasen and Paes remained "good friends" and they could re-unite for Wimbledon and other grass court tournaments.

"I cannot speak for Leander on what will definitely materialise at the end of the clay-court season," said Klaasen's coach, "but that is how we see it."

Klaasen's world ranking this week slipped further from 27th to 29th and the heady days of his successful run with Butorac must seem like distant memory - fuelling the view that he might have been better off remaining in tandem with the American.

South African Davis Cup captain Earl Grainger says it is not his "business" whom Klaasen plays with on the ATP circuit.

"He remains our top doubles player," added Grainger, "and a key member of the squad that will take on Ireland in July in the critical tie to avoid relegation from the Euro-Africa Group Two segment of the Davis Cup."

Read more on:    atp tour  |  french open  |  raven klaasen  |  tennis

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