Croats Nikola Mektic and Franko Skugor ousted top seeds Marcel Granollers and Horacio Zeballos in the first round of the Rakuten Japan Open Tennis Championships, and they have not looked back since.
Mektic and Skugor defeated Frenchman Lucas Pouille and defending champion Jan-Lennard Struff (w/McLachlan) 7-6(5), 7-6(3) on Saturday after one hour and 33 minutes to reach the Tokyo final. It is their second ATP Tour final as a team after winning this year’s Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters.
“It was a tough match, a really tough match,” Skugor said. “Maybe it wasn’t the best level, but it was really tough to get into the points and we tried our best. Maybe we were a little bit also lucky because we managed to come back [in the first set] and in the second set we were a little bit more solid on the serve.”
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The Croats earned 10 break points, and were only able to convert once. But Mektic and Skugor were the better team on serve, winning 75 per cent of their service points compared to 65 per cent for Pouille and Struff.
After their victory, Mektic and Skugor were delighted to hit balls into the Colosseum crowd, pose for numerous selfies and sign autographs for every fan who asked.
“It’s one of the nicest places I’ve ever been. I’m really surprised positively with how nice the people are,” Mektic said. “It’s really one of the best places for me to play. We managed to get flowers from fans, pictures from fans, so it’s never too hard to stay and sign some autographs and make pictures because they’re really the nicest people ever.”
Mektic and Skugor will face second seeds Nicolas Mahut and Edouard Roger-Vasselin in the final. The Croats have never played the Frenchmen, but they lost to Mahut and another Frenchman, Pierre-Hugues Herbert, in Cincinnati.
“I just hope we do a good match and keep the level we are having right now,” Skugor said. “It’s going to be an interesting final.”
Dodig/Polasek Advance To Beijing Final
Ivan Dodig and Filip Polasek booked their place in the China Open final on Saturday, defeating Jamie Murray and Neal Skupski 6-4, 6-4.
The unseeded duo saved all six break points it faced and claimed 88 per cent of first-serve points (30/34) to overcome the British pairing after 76 minutes. The Western & Southern Open champions will attempt to lift their second ATP Tour trophy of the season in the championship match.
Dodig and Polasek will meet defending champions Lukasz Kubot and Marcelo Melo for the title. Kubot and Melo own a seven-match winning streak in Beijing and are yet to drop a set in the Chinese capital this week.
Source: ATP World Tour