The first match of the Fleming/McEnroe group saw the seventh seeds Raven Klaasen and Rajeev Ram make their debut at the O2 Arena, as they went up against the form team of the year in world number one seeds Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut. After one hour 22 minutes, Klaasen and Ram clinched a 7-5, 6-4 victory to get off to the perfect start in their first appearance at the ATP World Tour Finals.
Klaasen/Ram settle down
The tone of the match was set early on. In just the fourth point of the match, Klaasen and Ram brought up a break point after closing down at the net and putting away the volley. Two big serves from the Herbert serve saw them hold serve to avoid going behind. Ram, on the other hand, held serve more comfortably to get on board.
The South African, American combo seemed to have got out of bed on the right side and after all four players survived their first service games, they put their French opposition under pressure. With the score tied at 2-2 30-30, Klaasen then hit the shot down the middle to which Herbert and Mahut both left and a third break point went the way of the seventh seeds. An exquisite backhand volley return from Herbert's serve clinched the first break of the match for 3-2.
Ram and Klaasen would consolidate the break with a smash for 4-2. The world number one pair struggled to gain any rhythm or momentum throughout the set. At 5-4, serving for the set, Ram hit a big first serve and brought up double set points. The French pair saved one break point before the American nervously served a double-fault as the game went to a deciding point. The world number one pair showed just why they are the best as they forced Klaasen to hit a backhand shot to break back at 5-5.
However, the 34-year-old fired a double-fault to present a break point opportunity to the seventh seeds. The form player Klaasen then nailed a backhand return down the line to edge out infront and have a second chance of clinching the set. They reached set point at 40-15. Klaasen served a double-fault before winning the next point and eventually closing out the set, 7-5.
Klaasen/Ram grab lone as they win match
Three of the four players started the set by holding their serves with ease. The fourth player, Klaasen would have trouble. Following an exchange at the net, Herbert got the better of the South African as the French looked for a way back into the match. Ram forced the error, won the point and set up a deciding point, one where they would win for 2-2.
Klaasen, in the next point, hit an expert return to the backhand of the 25-year-old who sent the shot sailing long brought up a break/deciding point. The 32-year-old won the next point and heaped further misery on the Fench pair by breaking and then consolidating for a 4-2 lead.
The next three games were pretty comfortable holds of serve as Klaasen and Ram found themselves serving for the victory at 5-4. The 34-year-old Cape Town native forced Herbert to play the volley which ultimately went beyond the baseline as they faced triple break points.
Just like the first set, Ram got tight and served a double-fault but Klaassen composed the American and they clinched the victory when Mahut smashed a backhand wide. Had the French won this match, Mahut would have sealed the number one spot in the individual doubles rankings.