Henri Kontinen and John Peers capped off their incredible fall hot streak in the perfect way: with a title at the World Tour Finals.
Kontinen and Peers, who finished runner-up in Shanghai and won the Paris Masters two weeks ago, completed an undefeated run through London by beating Raven Klaasen and Rajeev Ram 2-6, 6-1, 10-8 in the final on Sunday afternoon. Making a debut together at the year-end championship, the Finnish-Australian pairing triumphed after one hour and 10 minutes.
But it was Klaasen and Ram who were all over their opponents’ serves at the start, earning a break point in the opening game of the match. Although they were unable to convert it, the first set was decided not long afterward. Starting at 2-2, three consecutive games went to the deciding deuce point, with Klaasen and Ram sweeping the trio of critical moments. They broke for 3-2, dug out of a 15-40 hole thanks to huge serving by Ram, and broke again for 5-2. Klaasen served out the opening frame of play to 30 in the eighth game.
Kontinen and Peers, however, were quick to turn the tide in their favor. They won 12 of the second set’s first 14 points, a stretch that included a love break of Ram at 1-0. Impressive returning and a missed overhead by Klaasen led to the break for Kontinen and Peers. The set was all but over when Klaasen dropped serve from 40-15 up at 0-3.
Ram survived a deuce point at 0-5 to avoid a bagel, but Kontinen closed out the second with an easy hold at 5-1. Thus the stage was set for a super-tiebreaker to decided the last title on the 2016 tennis calendar. As it turned out, it came down to just a single mini-break. Klaasen missed a golden opportunity to earn one for his team at 7-6, as he sent a sitting forehand right on top of the net well past the baseline. The only return point came with the South African serving at 8-8, when a big return by Peers forced Ram into a backhand volley error.
Peers sealed the deal one point later with a well-placed first serve down the middle.
“Credit these guys,” Ram said of Kontinen and Peers. “They’ve been the best team on tour since after the U.S. Open. On that alone they definitely deserve to be in this position.”
“The overwhelming emotion is disappointment,” Klaasen admitted. “In a few days it will probably feel better…. It’s been a hell of a season for us.”
It was an even better season for Kontinen and Peers, who partnered up for the first time in 2016. Peers made it to the World Tour Finals last year with Jamie Murray, while Kontinen had previously played with Marin Draganja and Treat Huey in 2015. It is safe to say the new team clicked.
“When I start to think what we’ve achieved probably in the last month, it’s been a great thing for both of us,” Kontinen assured. “But myself personally, it just feels really good to know all the hard work we kept putting in time and time again, even if we felt good or bad, that it’s all starting to pay off and we belong in contesting big tournaments all the time. That’s the biggest thing for us, to see if we can do that on a regular basis…. To be honest, it probably actually hasn’t sunk in. It will hopefully sink in tomorrow once I get a flight back home.”
“At any moment the momentum can change,” Peers said. “We were lucky enough to get onto [Klaasen and Ram] straight at the start of the second set. (The) momentum changed our way. That’s doubles these days. You can never feel comfortable out there because everything changes so quickly. So it was actually really good we hung in there, hung in there, and we took our chance when we got it.”
“We said at the start of the season that our goal was to qualify for London,” Kontinen reflected.
They did a lot more than that.