Hesh-Bops enter final with gritty victory

Indian duo knocks out Paes-Stepanek in semis

Mahesh Bhupathi and Rohan Bopanna saved a match point to enter the doubles final of the ATP World Tour Finals after defeating Leander Paes and Radek Stepanek via Super tie-breaker, here on Sunday.

The fifth-seeded Indian pair halted the winning run of the Indo-Czech combination with a 4-6, 6-1, 12-10 win in the semifinals and in the process avenged the defeat of the Shanghai Masters final last month.

Third-seeded Paes and Stepanek was the only pair to enter the semifinals unbeaten after having topped Group A with three wins from as many matches. Bhupathi and Bopanna, who are making their debut at the finale as a pair, now have a chance to create history as no Indian has won the year-end championship since Vijay Amritraj’s triumph in 1977.

The Indians will face the winners of the other semifinal between English-Danish combine of Jonathan Marray and Frederik Nielsen and Spaniards Marcel Granollers and Marc Lopez in Monday’s championship match.

In the first set, Paes and Stepanek converted their fourth break point opportunity on Bhupathi’s serve, for a 4-3 lead. Serving for the set at 5-4, Stepanek hit an ace to seal the 36-minute opener.

Bhupathi and Bopanna put Paes under pressure in the third game of the second set. Paes saved two breakpoints when down at 0-40 but hit a backhand volley into the net to gift his fellow Indians a 3-1 lead.

Bhupathi and Bopanna extended their lead to 5-1 after two terrific returns in Stepanek’s service game. Bhupathi closed out the 25-minute set with a hold to 15.

The Super tie-breaker was a tight affair with the two teams locked at 3-3 and then 8-8. Stepanek served out wide to Bopanna, who lobbed too short to give Paes a smash winner. Bhupathi saved one match point with a backhand volley and at 9-9, on Bopanna’s serve and hit another volley winner down the middle.

Paes saved the match point with a forehand volley winner, but Stepanek volleyed a backhand into the net at 10-10. Bhupathi, serving on his team’s second match point, served down the middle, Stepanek returned to Bopanna, who struck a high forehand volley for a winner.

Del Potro stuns Federer

On Saturday, towering Argentine Juan Martin del Potro snapped Roger Federer's three-year unbeaten sequence at the World Tour Finals to earn a semifinal against world number one Novak Djokovic.

Del Potro, fresh from beating the Swiss in the Basel final a fortnight ago, claimed a 7-6, 4-6, 6-3 victory at the O2 Arena to guarantee himself runner-up spot in Group B with a 2-1 record, the same as defending champion Federer who will meet Andy Murray for third time in London this year in the other semifinal.

David Ferrer beat Janko Tipsarevic 4-6, 6-3, 6-1 in the last round-robin match.

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