Day One at the Nitto ATP World Tour Finals began with a shock as Ryan Harrison and Michael Venus defeated the second seeds and defending champions Henri Kontinen and John Peers 6-4, 7-6(8).
Harrison/Venus grab late break to seal opening set
Almost immediately, Kontinen/Peers were put under pressure as triple breakpoints arrived for the eighth seeds. Two excellent serves brought the opening game to deuce before the Finn fired an overhead volley low to Venus as he and Peers got through the opening game. The debutants had no problem in wrapping up their game with Harrison bombing down an ace out wide for 1-1.
Both teams continued to hold their own with the next two service games going with the server as neither could be separated as of yet with the score tied at 2-2. But once again, Peers struggled on serve, allowing Harrison/Venus to take the game to a deciding/break point.
The American chose to receive again but the second serve took him by surprise as Peers scraped by his service game once again to edge infront at 3-2. The eighth seeds looked comfortable on serve and eased through their game to restore parity and stay in touch with the second seeds. Both teams also held their next service games with the set level at 4-4.
For the third straight service game, Peers looked out of sorts on serve and more breakpoints went the way of the eighth seeds, two of them. Venus overplayed a simple overhead but they finally broke the Australian at the sixth time of asking to serve for the set up 5-4. A first set point came for Harrison as Kontinen's forehand return could only find the net. Venus put away a thumping volley to take the set 6-4.
Eighth seeds squander number of break points; wins the match via tiebreaker
Just like the start of the match, the eighth seeds would bring up two break points at the start of the second, for the umpteenth time on the Peers serve. An unreadable serve followed by a Kontinen volley saw the second seeds hold serve to begin the second set.
The first love service game of the match came on the American's serve as he and Venus continued to grace the big stage with relative ease for 1-1. Kontinen followed suit by also holding to love, 1-2. Just the two games later, Peers fired a double-fault to fall into trouble as they face four breakpoints. But again, living dangerously, the second seeds escaped staying alive in this opening round robin match at 2-3.
Both teams would then have a chance of breaking, first Harrison/Venus at 4-3 and then Kontinen/Peers a game later but the score remained locked. Three games later, the eighth seeds would use their aggressive play to break on deciding point.
However, Venus was unable to close out the match as Kontinen/Peers upped their power level to take the set into a tiebreaker. Harrison/Venus would have a chance to seal the match at 6-5 before saving a set point at 6-7 and then squandering a second chance up 8-7. But eventually, they closed out the match with an unreadable serve.