Third seeds Mahesh Bhupathi and his Bahamian partner Mark Knowles opened their campaign at the ATP World Tour Finals on a resounding note, notching up a straight-set win over debutants Frantisek Cermak and Michal Mertinak in their first group A doubles match in London.
Bhupathi and Knowles defeated the Czech-Slovak duo 6-3, 6-3 losing just 12 points on serve throughout the 70-minute encounter and converting four of seven break points in a dominant display in the first face off between the two teams.
"It was a very solid performance. Basically a little tentative in the beginning, but once we got a few returns going I think it was a very solid match. We knew we had to play solid tennis to be able to beat them. Just want to keep it up for the next few days," said Bhupathi.
Bhupathi felt the Indo-Bahamian pair's experience as a team made all the difference in the match. "I think together we've played this tournament 15-20 times; and these guys, it's their first Masters. We knew if we came out of the blocks firing, the occasion possibly could get to them. I think it definitely plays a small role," he said.
"It's fantastic to be in London. It's a great venue. With Wimbledon, the tennis tradition is very rich here. The O2 arena is pretty spectacular. We really tried to play our best tennis, tried to put on a show. It's really a pleasure to play in front of that many people because we don't get that opportunity too often," added Knowles.
Bhupathi and Knowles will look to avoid a repeat of their debut outing at the season finale last year in Shanghai, when they won their first round-robin match with ease before losing the next two matches in tie-breaks.
The veteran duo will next take on Poles Mariusz Fyrstenberg and Marcin Matkowski, who stunned Daniel Nestor and Nenad Zimonjic 6-4, 6-4 in the other group A match.
The tournament will be played in a round robin format with eight teams divided in two groups of four each. The top seed will be placed in Group A and the second seed will be placed in Group B. Teams seeded three and four, five and six, seven and eight, will then be drawn in pairs with the first drawn placed in Group A.
The round robin will determine the four teams for the semi-finals with the format thereafter being an elimination competition. The winner of each group (best overall record) will be placed in separate semi-final brackets, with the top team in Group A playing the runner-up in Group B, and vice versa.