Klaasen/Venus Improve To 1-1 In Group Play
Raven Klaasen and Michael Venus held their nerve on Tuesday to record their first victory in Group Llodra/Santoro at the Nitto ATP Finals. The South African-Kiwi tandem improved to 1-1 after the sixth seeds defeated seventh seeds Nikola Mektic of Croatia and Austria’s Alexander Peya 7-6(5), 7-6(5) in one hour and 43 minutes at The O2 in London.
Two days on from a Match Tie-break loss to Jamie Murray and Bruno Soares, first-time qualifiers Klaasen and Venus were made to work hard for their 39th match win of the season (39-24 overall). The duo will next play second-seeded Colombians Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah on Thursday. Klaasen previously reached the 2016 final with Rajeev Ram, while Venus partnered Ryan Harrison last year.
Peya twice came within a point of losing his serve in the first set as Klaasen and Venus targeted the Austrian, who, prior to this prestigious event had not competed since August. Once Klaasen saved a deciding deuce point at 5-5, coming through heavy firepower, Mektic and Peya went on to take 3/1 and 5/3 leads in the tie-break. A big forehand winner from Venus triggered a four-point comeback to clinch the 50-minute set.
Klaasen and Venus kept their opponents under pressure in the second set, with Mektic saving deciding deuce points in the first and fifth games, before making the breakthrough on Peya’s serve for a 4-3 lead. Venus served for the match, but some aggressive returning saw Mektic convert a third break point and grasp a degree of momentum. Klaasen and Venus regrouped to surge to a 5/1 lead in the tie-break prior to a nail-biting finale that ended with a double fault.
Mektic and Peya, who are now 36-20 in their first year as a team, will now play fourth seeds Murray and Soares in their final round-robin group match on Thursday. Mektic is making his debut at the season finale, while Peya qualified in 2013 and 2014 with Soares. Together in 2018, the pair lifted two titles at the Grand Prix Hassan II in Marrakech (d. Paire/Roger-Vasselin) and the Mutua Madrid Open (d. Bryans).