07:46 PM GMT November 14, 2017
The first doubles team to advance to the semi-finals of the Nitto ATP Finals is not the pair many would have expected.
Eighth-seeded Ryan Harrison and Michael Venus, who lost five of six matches to close their regular season, defeated Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut, 6-7(4), 6-4, 10/5, to guarantee a berth in the final four at The 02, clinching first place in Group Eltingh/Haarhuis.
Once top-seeded Henri Kontinen and John Peers — who this year's Roland Garros champions beat on Sunday — took down Jean-Julien Rojer and Horia Tecau in the first match of the day Tuesday, Harrison and Venus simply needed a win against Herbert and Mahut.
And that's what they got, eliminating Rojer and Tecau from semi-final contention in the process. The American-Kiwi duo evened their FedEx ATP Head2Head series with the Frenchmen at 1-1, after Herbert and Mahut got the better of them at the ATP World Tour Masters 1000 event in Cincinnati earlier this season in straight sets.
It looked like the Frenchmen might take another straight-sets victory when they cruised in the opening-set tie-break without dropping a point on serve. But Harrison and Venus did not drop their heads or their levels, bursting out of the gates to immediately break in the second set. On break point in the first game, Harrison laced a return at the net man, Mahut, eliciting a weak enough reply for Venus to swoop in and put away a volley.
Harrison and Venus then faced 0/40 with the American serving up 3-2, but they saved all four break points. Harrison came up with a clutch jamming serve into Herbert's body at deuce, which the Frenchman could only dump into the net. They used that momentum to close out the set and at one point win nine of 11 points in the Match Tie-break to earn their second triumph of the tournament.
Harrison and Venus will look to finish round-robin play with a perfect record against Rojer and Tecau on Thursday.