Raven and Michael go down fighting in London opener

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Jamie Murray and Bruno Soares worked hard to win their opening Group Llodra/Santoro match on Sunday at the Nitto ATP Finals with a 7-5, 4-6, 10-5 victory over South Africa’s Raven Klaasen and Michael Venus of New Zealand in one hour and 49 minutes.

Fourth seeds Murray and Soares saved three set points and recovered from 3-5 down in the first set for their 38th match win of the season (38-18 overall). The British/Brazilian team are making their third straight appearance at the season finale, which is held at The O2 in London, and have reached the semi-finals for the past two years.

“I think we did really well to win,” said Murray. “It was a battle from the first game. Obviously, I lost my serve so immediately we were kind of under the pump a bit. We had a few chances at the start of the match, as well, to break back. Then we hung in there and we got, what, I guess a bit lucky because it’s 5-4, 30-Love. The guy was serving great. All of a sudden a couple of double-faults creep in, Bruno hits a good return, all of a sudden it’s 5-All.

“I thought we competed really well, especially in both the tie-breaks, played a lot of good tennis when we really needed it. Yeah, [we’re] really happy to win the first match.”

Soares said, “It was a battle from the beginning. I think best thing what we did was competing well the whole match. It’s not easy to play. I was a bit on and off with my returns. Some games, I was feeling good, all of a sudden missing a lot. [In the] second set, same thing, started down a break, broke back. But I think the most important thing for us was finishing strong the match. I think we played a really good tie-break. I think we come out of the match with a very good feel after that.”

Klaasen and Venus, appearing at the season finale as a team for the first time, broke Murray on a deciding deuce point in the first game, and Venus later saved two break points for a 2-0 lead. At 3-5, Klaasen mis-timed a forehand return off Murray’s serve on a set point and, in the next game, Venus could not convert two set point chances on serve. Soares soon pounced at the net for 5-5 on a deciding point. In a tense tie-break, Murray and Soares were proactive at the net and took their lone chance to wrap up the 54-minute opener.

Klaasen and Venus took a 2-0 lead in the second set, but Klaasen lost his serve in the third game. Yet the pair regrouped with Soares saving a deciding deuce point at 3-4. While Soares grew in confidence with his returning, it was Klaasen’s power that forced a volley error from Murray in the 10th game.

Murray and Soares, the 2016 year-end No. 1s in the ATP Doubles Team Rankings, seized early control of the Match Tie-break, winning the first three points, as they moved closer to their third win in four meetings over Klaasen and Venus in 2018 (also Rome, Wimbledon and Washington, D.C.).

Murray, 32, and 36-year-old Soares are now 6-3 at the Nitto ATP Finals. This year they lifted three titles – at the Abierto Mexicano Telcel presentado por HSBC (d. Bryans), the Citi Open in Washington, D.C. (d. M. Bryan/Roger-Vasselin) and the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati (d. Cabal/Farah) – from six ATP World Tour finals.

Klaasen and Venus, winners of the Open 13 Provence (d. Daniell/Inglot) in February and runners up at four other events this year, dropped to a 38-24 record on the season. Two years ago, Klaasen partnered Rajeev Ram to the final (l. to Kontinen/Peers) and Venus partnered Ryan Harrison at the 2017 event.

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