Indian duo win grudge match to reach ATP final
LONDON (AFP) –
Mahesh Bhupathi and Rohan Bopanna won their grudge match with India’s Leander Paes and his Czech partner Radek Stepanek as the Indian pair reached the final of the ATP Tour Finals with a 4-6, 6-1, 12/10 victory at London’s O2 Arena on Sunday.
The semi-final showdown always promised to be a bitter battle after Bhupathi refused to be partnered with Paes at the London Olympics earlier this year, causing an ugly rift that caused several months of chaos in Indian tennis.
Bhupathi and Paes had a successful doubles partnership for several years, but split up when their relationship deteriorated.
Paes and Stepanek defeated Bhupathi and Bopanna in the final of the Shanghai Masters earlier this year in the rivals’ first meeting since the Olympics, so this was an especially sweet moment of revenge for the Indian pair.
In Monday’s final, they will play the winners of the other semi-final between Spanish duo Marcel Granollers and Marc Lopez and Wimbledon doubles champions Jonathan Marray and and Frederik Nielsen.
Bhupathi admitted it was an emotional victory, especially given the nature of the relationships between the two teams.
“It’s enjoyable at the end, yes,” Bhupathi said. “The emotions are the emotions. I mean, everyone felt it. Everyone tried their best to win.
“We’ve been playing really well and won the title in Paris, so we just had to keep our heads down and fight because things can change at any second.
“We’ve had a fairly consistent year on the tour, reaching six Masters semi-finals, so we are just happy to finish with a bang.
“But we’ve got one match to go and we have to get back in focus after celebrating for a couple of hours. We’d like to finish with the title here.”
After losing a hard-fought first set, Bhupathi and Bopanna stormed back to take the second set with ease.
That meant a super tie-break was needed to settle the match and again Bhupathi and Bopanna had to come from behind.
They trailed 8-5 but hit back to level and then both teams saved a match-point before the crucial moment.
On a second serve from Paes, Stepanek was unable to handle the return at the net and his tame volley gave Bhupathi and Bopanna their second match point and the first on their serve.
They seized the opportunity to finish off the match, celebrating wildly at the net.
Bhupathi will be making his fifth appearance in the final of the season-ending event, while Bopanna has never appeared in the final before.
Three of Bhupathi’s previous appearances came with Paes in 1997, 1999 and 2000, while he also lost with Nenad Zimonjic in 2005.