By Mark Etheridge
A classy performance by South Africa’s Raven Klaasen and American partner Rajeev Ram has sealed their Saturday semi-final slot at the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals in London.
After winning one and losing the second of their pool matches, the duo booked their spot on Friday evening as they won their final round-robin game against fourth-seeded Spanish duo Feliciano and Marc Lopez.
The score was 6-3 7-6 (8) in favour of the seventh seeds. That saw them ending second in the Group Fleming/McEnroe.
Also through are the in-form pairing of Henri Kontinen and John Peers who had a peerless 3-0 record in the group.
So, now it’s a another tester for the Klaasen/Ram team as they take on second seeds Jamie Murray/Bruno Soares in the semi-finals.
The British/Brazilian combo end the year as the top-ranked ATP doubles team and Kontinen/Peers take on the third-seeded US combo of brothers Bob and Mike Bryan in the other semi-final.
Both teams swopped early service breaks, before Klaasen/Ram gained the advantage after the South African hit a volley winner to break Marc Lopez and give them a 5-3 lead. The South African-American pair won the final eight points of the set to grab an early advantage.
The second set went with serve and into a tie-break.
Then an overhead winner from Klaasen gave them team a mini break to lead 3-1.
Eventually Klaasen/Ram kept their cool to convert their fifth opportunity into victory after one hour and 24 minutes of nail-biting action.
Said a happy Klaasen: ‘Today’s match was about as exciting a match as I’ve ever played. The crowd really got into it in the second set tie break … and there was some great tennis out there.
‘We served at a high level and could dictate play going into match against current top-ranked team. We’ll have to step up even more, but we’ve beaten them before which gives us the confidence to do it again. Really looking forward to this one!’ Proud coach Jeff Coetzee said afterwards: ‘The guys really stuck to the game plan and I think they played a very good second set.
‘We started well and I think the important thing was how well they served. Raven just had one bad service game.’
The ex SA Davis Cup ace went on to say: ’Overall they just executed well, we had a good plan and did a lot of the stuff in practice. For sure there were maybe one or two things we could have done better on the weaker service of Marc Lopez.
‘It was good to see how the boys regrouped and stayed composed. It was also about how well they served, they both served well.
‘I also thought Raven returned very well. Very proud of them.
‘Now they must recover well. They’re not going into semis as favourites and Bruno and Murray have everything to lose. But if we play like today and are just a bit sharper on some of the things we have a very good chance. Of course, Bruno’s also playing for the No 1 spot individually.
‘Summing up, these guys are looking forward to challenge. They know exactly what to do and it will all boil down to how they serve well again and how they execute on the bigger points.’