November 13, 2012 - World TeamTennis (WTT) - Washington Kastles
Washington Kastles' captain Leander Paes and Radek Stepanek swept three matches in Group A before falling in a tense, three-set semifinal Sunday at the ATP World Tour Finals in London.
A perennial Top 10 player throughout his career, Paes is now ranked No. 3 in the world, his highest ranking since the 2000 season that he started at No. 1.
In a rematch of last month's Shanghai Masters 1000 final, No. 5 seeds Mahesh Bhupathi and Rohan Bopanna of India saved a match point to end the season of their countryman Paes and the Czech Stepanek 4-6, 6-1, [12-10].
The third-seeded Paes and Stepanek were the only team to go 3-0 in group play. They defeated No. 7 seeds Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi and Jean-Julien Rojer and No. 6 seeds Marcel Granollers and Marc Lopez in straight sets, and then eliminated top-ranked Bob and Mike Bryan 6-4, 6-7(6), [10-7] on Saturday.
For the year, Paes and Stepanek went 3-3 against the World No. 1s, also defeating the Bryan brothers in the Australian Open final and Miami Masters 1000 semifinals.
Only the Top 8 singles players and doubles teams in the world qualify for the year-end ATP World Tour Finals, and Paes was playing the event for the 13th time.
One year earlier, it was Paes and Bhupathi who had reached the semifinals together only to fall in a match tiebreak. They were previously runners-up in 1997, 1999 and 2000.
Having split for a second time prior to the start of the 2012 season, the Indian veterans played for pride and prize in Sunday's winner-take-all tiebreaker. Neither Paes, nor Bhupathi, had ever won the prestigious year-end championships before, so a spot in Monday's final had extra significance.
Paes and Stepanek held advantages of 7-3 and 8-5 in the match tiebreak before Bhupathi and Bopanna rallied.
With all four players at the net at 8-5, Bopanna came up with a difficult half-volley winner off of a Paes overhead. After Stepanek missed volleys on back-to-back points, the match tiebreak was even at 8-8.
Paes smashed an overhead winner to give his team match point and a 9-8 lead. But his Indian adversaries played keep-away from Paes in the next exchange, directing four straight shots at Stepanek before Bhupathi ended the rally with a backhand volley winner.
When Bhupathi and Bopanna held a match point at 10-9, Paes denied them with another volley winner. But on his opponents' second match point, the Kastle was helpless at the net as Bopanna bashed a sitter off a short Stepanek return, denying Paes the chance to capture his first ATP World Tour Finals championship.
In the end, it was Granollers and Lopez who took the title, beating Bhupathi and Bopanna 7-5, 3-6, [10-3] in the final on Monday. Novak Djokovic defeated six-time champion Roger Federer 7-6(6), 7-5 for the singles championship.
ATPWorldTour.com caught up with Paes and Stepanek following each of their three victories at The O2. Sporting his official Nike Kastles team jacket, Paes reflected on his team's undefeated run through the round-robin stage and his memorable first season playing with Stepanek. Click here to watch the interviews.
Reynolds Reaches Knoxville ATP Challenger Final
Kastles' Closer Defeats Smyczek in Rematch of US Open 5-Setter
Washington Kastles' closer Bobby Reynolds did not drop a set en route to the ATP Challenger Tour final in Knoxville, Tenn., but fell 6-3, 6-2 to Michael Russell in Sunday's championship match.
Along the way, Reynolds defeated a pair of foes from World TeamTennis. The 2012 WTT Male MVP beat longtime rival Jesse Witten of the New York Sportimes 6-2, 6-4 and Alex Kuznetsov of the Sacramento Capitals 6-4, 6-3.
That set Reynolds up with a semifinal showdown against countryman Tim Smyczek. Friends off the court, Reynolds and Smyczek were playing one another for the eighth time, with Reynolds holding a 5-2 advantage.
But Smyczek won the most recent of those encounters: a 5-set, 3-hour and 33-minute marathon in the first round of the 2012 US Open.
Broken six times by Smyczek at the US Open, Reynolds raised his first-serve percentage by 12 points in Knoxville. As a result, Smyczek got only one look at a break point, which Reynolds saved en route to a 6-4, 7-6(5) victory.
In the final, Reynolds was undone by his US Open doubles partner Russell, whom he had previously beaten five straight times.
Reynolds is 11-4 in his last four Challengers, including semifinal showings in Sacramento, Calif., and Tiburon, Calif. He's got two more tournaments to go: a $50,000 Challenger this week in Champaign, Ill., and a $35,000 event next week in Toyota, Japan.
Follow Reynolds throughout the week in Champaign with live streaming (Court 1 only) and live scoring. The third-year Kastle opens his campaign tonight on Court 2 against Daniel Smethurst of Great Britain. For a schedule of Reynolds' matches, keep up with the Kastle Tracker at WashingtonKastles.com.
Thanks to his run in Tennessee, Reynolds rose 13 spots to No. 144 in the latest ATP World Tour singles rankings. He's not the only Kastle moving up the charts.
Leander Paes ' three wins in London elevated him to No. 3 in the ATP World Tour doubles rankings, his highest ranking since the week of May 15, 2000. Only Bob and Mike Bryan are looking down at the Kastles' captain.
Treat Huey and Raquel Kops-Jones, who joined the Kastles for the final week of the WTT regular season, are enjoying career-high doubles rankings of No. 35 and No. 13 respectively.
Arina Rodionova has enjoyed a remarkable recovery from a left wrist fracture that forced her to miss the French Open and Wimbledon. Since August, Hot Rod has risen from No. 344 to No. 246 in singles and No. 157 to No. 108 in doubles on the WTA Tour.