Paes, Stepanek ousted from World-Tour finals
Leander Paes' dream of winning ATP year-end finals remained unfulfilled as the veteran Indian crashed out of the prestigious event along with Czech partner Radek Stepanek after losing a must-win Group B match, here today.
Seventh seeds Paes and Stepanek lost their final Group B contest 6-4 6-7 (5) 8-10 to Spanish pair of Mark Lopez and Marcel Granollers in one hour and 49 minutes. Paes had qualified for the season finale for the 14th time, having finished runner-up with compatriot Mahesh Bhupathi in 1997, 1999 and 2000 and in 2005 with Serbia's Nenad Zimonjic.
Paes and Stepanek, the US Open winners, have conceded 35 games, the highest in their Group in three matches and even if Alexander Peya and Bruno Soares lose to David Marrero and Fernando Verdasco later in the day, the seventh seeds won't qualify for the semifinals.
If Peya and Soares lose, three teams will have a 1-2 win record and qualification will go down to number of games conceded in the Group stage as per the format of the tournament. Lopez and Granollers have conceded 34 games, one less than Paes and Stepanek, so they are still technically in the race. Paes and Stepanek end their season together with a 15-8 match record on the season, which includes winning the US Open.
In the match today Lopez and Paes each saved three break point opportunities, including deciding deuce points, in the third and fourth games of the first set. Stepanek earned the first break of serve when he anticipated a Granollers backhand by rushing across the court to hit a high forehand volley winner at 30/40 on Granollers serve.
Paes and Stepanek could have led 5-2, but Lopez proved to be fleet of foot in striking a crosscourt forehand off-balance into the narrowest of gaps. Stepanek went on to clinch the 38-minute opener with a solid hold to 15. Paes belied his 40 years with a number of athletic volleys. The Spaniard, 0-2 in previous matches this week, came under pressure once again at the start of the second set.
But Granollers managed to survive a deciding point deuce, with a body serve to Stepanek, who was broken on his own deciding point in the fourth game. Granollers and Lopez earned a confidence boosting hold for 4-1, before Paes and Stepanek mounted a comeback by hurrying Lopez into error at 4-2, 30/40 to get the set back on serve. In the tie-break, Granollers struck a backhand volley winner off a Lopez second serve at 6-5.
Paes and Stepanek target Lopez in the longer rallies early on in the Match Tie-break. Paes, where possible, took risks and snapped up half chances close to the net. The duo led 3-1, but Granollers and Lopez regained their composure to win seven of the next eight points, combining groundstroke power with outstanding net play reactions, for an 8-4 advantage. The duo clinched their third match point opportunity for their 31st win in 54 matches as a team in 2013.