Paes, Stepanek enter US Open men’s doubles final

Leander Paes

NEW YORK: Leander Paes put himself in contention for a third US Open men’s doubles title after the Indian and his Czech partner Radek Stepanek entered the final following their rivals’ injury-forced exit from the semifinals here.

Fifth seeds Paes and Stepanek were tied 5-5 in the first set when their sixth-seeded rivals Marcel Granollers and Marc Lopez of Spain retired due to injury.

The match was halted when Lopez received a lengthy medical timeout due to a calf injury. Two games later, Lopez gestured that he would be unable to continue before limping off the court.

The Indian offered his sympathies to Lopez at the end of the proceedings.

“I wish Marc all the best because both he and Marcel are great guys,” said Paes afterwards.

“This is our livelihood and we come out to work hard and put on a show for you guys, so he definitely deserves respect.”

The Indian-Czech team grabbed an early break on Lopez’s serve to lead 2-1 after Stepanek fired a volley at Granollers.

Even though the Spanish team had fewer opportunities, they made the most of them. A nine deuce game on Lopez’s next service outing at 2-4 resulted in six missed break point opportunities for Paes and Stepanek. Meanwhile, the fifth seeds converted the lone break point chance they had in the very next game. That leveled the set at 4-4 when Paes dumped a backhand volley into the net.

Lopez called the trainer at 5-5, 15-15 to address his calf injury that had begun to affect his movement.

He managed to stave off two break points and hold serve, but Paes began hitting drop shots and Lopez was unable to even run for them. When Paes held serve to send the match into a tiebreak, Lopez told his partner that he would be unable to continue.

Paes has won two US Open men’s doubles title in 2006 (with Martin Damm) and 2009 (with Lukas Dlouhy), as well as a mixed doubles title in 2008 (with Cara Black).

He and Stepanek will play the winner of the semifinal between second seeds Bob and Mike Bryan of the USA, and ninth seeds seeds Jean-Julien Rojer of the Netherlands and Aisam Ul-Haq Qureshi of Pakistan. -PTI

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