Leander Paes and Radek Stepanek got off to a rousing start in the year-end ATP World Tour finals, shocking second seeds Alexander Peya and Bruno Soares in a closely-fought Group B match, in London, on Tuesday.
The seventh seeded pair beat the Austria-Brazilian combination 6-3, 5-7, 10-8 in an hour and 42 minutes, to repeat their triumph at this year’s US Open final.
Paes and Stepanek, who improved their match record to 14-5 this season, went through some anxious moments before prevailing in the super tie-breaker.
Paes and Stepanek forced a break for a 4-2 lead. It was just one of seven break-point opportunities they converted in the first set.
While Paes was dominant at the net, Stepanek was effective in striking low returns to the net-rusher. The Czech clinched the 36-minute set, holding serve on 30.
First-time qualifiers and second seeds Peya and Soares were more competitive in the second set.
Leading 6-5, the pair recovered from 15-40 on the Indian’s serve to win three straight points and clinch the set, which lasted 50 minutes.
Paes and Stepanek, who reached the semi-finals on their team debut last year (losing to Mahesh Bhupathi-Rohan Bopanna), won the first three points in the match tie-break. Solid volleying helped the Czech-Indian team to maintain the advantage in their 19th match of the year as Paes converted their fourth match-point opportunity with a backhand volley winner.
Paes has qualified for 14th time (23-28 record) and is looking for his first title after four runner-up finishes – in 1997, 1999, 2000 (with Bhupathi) and in 2005 (with Nenad Zimonjic). Peya and Soares are 53-19 this year, which includes five titles in 10 finals. They will finish the season at No. 2 in the Emirates ATP Doubles Team Rankings.
The Indo-Czech pair is now second in the four-team Group B, behind the Spanish combo of David Marrero and Fernando Verdasco.
Image: Radek Stepanek (left) of the Czech Republic and Leander Paes of India celebrate a point during their men's doubles match against Alexander Peya of Austria and Bruno Soares of Brazil on Day 2 of the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals at O2 Arena.
Photograph: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images