Marray and Neilsen make semis
Wimbledon champions Jonny Marray and Freddie Nielsen on Wednesday became the first qualifiers for the semi-finals at the ATP World Tour Finals.
Having stunned the world's best doubles players to triumph at the All England Club in the summer, Marray and Nielsen have picked up where they left off and on Wednesday night defeated defending champions Max Mirnyi and Daniel Nestor 7-6 (7/3) 4-6 12-10 at the O2 Arena.
Belarusian Mirnyi and Canadian Nestor have 19 grand slam doubles titles between them and six World Tour Finals crowns but they came out second best to the debutants.
The result of the afternoon match in Group B meant Marray and Nielsen knew victory would assure them of a last-four spot after their opening win over Indian pair Mahesh Bhupathi and Rohan Bopanna on Monday.
The Anglo-Danish duo again made a good start, with Nielsen securing a break in the seventh game on a deciding deuce point, but Marray was unable to serve out the set.
They played a great tie-break, though, pulling away after sharing the first four points before Marray served an ace to clinch it.
The second set did not begin so well as a Nielsen double fault gave the champions an immediate advantage, and it was one Marray and Nielsen were unable to claw back.
They won their first match on a deciding tie-break, and that was the scenario again as the O2 crowd lapped up the drama.
It was tight from the start with no more than two points between the pairs all the way through. The first match point went to Marray and Nielsen after the Yorkshireman hit an ace but he then netted the return.
The next chance went to Mirnyi and Nestor but this time Nielsen held firm on serve, and when Marray and the Dane had another chance they took it, Nestor volleying fractionally long.
Marray and Nielsen now have the luxury of a dead rubber against eliminated pair Robert Lindstedt and Horia Tecau, who they beat in the Wimbledon final, before their semi-final on Sunday.
Success in London should not come as a surprise to the pair, but Marray conceded they certainly did not expect such smooth progress.
The 31-year-old said: "Obviously it was pretty tense there at the end and we came out with some big first serves when we needed it. Again it was just a few points here and there that turned it in our favour.
"Pretty much we just came here obviously with the intention of really enjoying the whole experience, just trying to capture some of the form that we played at Wimbledon really.
"We can enjoy the next match. There's no pressure on us again. It's a great situation. We're pretty surprised we're through after two matches."
Marray is looking for a regular partner for next season with Nielsen unwilling to give up his singles career, which means the pair are unlikely to defend their Wimbledon title.
"A lot of things can happen," the Dane said. "Hopefully Jonny can find a regular partner because it's better for him.
"It's difficult for me to sit on the outside as well and see Jonny after Wimbledon have to play with six or seven different partners, not get any momentum there.
"If he does well, I'm pretty sure the partner would be pretty upset if he didn't have a chance to play Wimbledon with Jonny, and that would be completely understandable."
Never say never was the message from Marray, though, the Sheffield player adding: "We enjoy playing with each other, we do all right. It would be good but let's see how things go."
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