Double doubles delight for Kiwis at ASB Classic
Artem Sitak and Marcus Daniell are no longer a doubles team, but they're both in the doubles semifinals of the ASB Classic.
It was a momentous day for New Zealand men's tennis of the doubles variety, with the pairing of Sitak and Nicolas Monroe firstly winning their match. Then at night Daniell and Marcelo Demoliner also recorded a victory.
Sitak and his American partner Monroe battled back from a set and break down against Argentinian duo Facundo Bagnis and Diego Schwartzman to force a super tiebreak, where they saved match point before surging home to win 3-6 7-6 11-9.
The pair will meet Scott Lipsky and Jonathan Erlich in the semis.
Sitak and Monroe produced some breathtaking tennis at times, particularly in the second set with the New Zealander nailing back-to-back points at the net to break back.
"They were playing really well but we were expecting that. Those guys are really good in singles and they know how to play doubles," Sitak said.
"So down set and a break, we needed to do something and that game that we broke at 3-2 down, that was really important for us, a big momentum switch."
With standing room only on the Grandstand court, that also brought the parochial crowd into play, which Sitak said was crucial after their late finish the night before against fellow Kiwi Michael Venus and Robert Lindstedt.
"We were kind of tired. We finished so late last night, couldn't get to sleep until 3am because of all of the adrenaline and it was difficult to come back today," he added.
"We needed some kind of a boost of energy and that happened at 3-2 when we broke and form there we just rode the crowd."
After edging clear in the second set tiebreak, the pair appeared to be in serious trouble in the decider when Bagnis and Schwartzman shot out to a 6-3 lead.
However, a brilliant return from Sitak put the match back on serve at 6-7 and it was the Argentines who faltered down the stretch, with Sitak and Monroe celebrating their victory with a big chest-bump.
As for their semifinal against Lipsky and Erlich, Sitak said: "We're very confident.
"The most important thing to do is relax. Relax the mind, relax the body and just get ready 100 per cent."
Then in the final match of the evening session Daniell and Demoliner defeated Leander Paps and Andre Sa 6-3 7-6.
It was a gripping match that had the crowd enthralled for all 81 minutes of it.
Daniell and Demoliner were always ahead in the first set and had a break early in the second.
However, the experienced duo got the break back and sent the set into the tiebreak.
Daniell and Demoliner got a mini break at the beginning of it, which was pegged back,
But the Kiwi/Brazilian combination were able to strike again and took the match.
"Those are some of the most experienced doubles guys on the tour," an elated Daniell said afterwards.
"Us winning that match feels like a changing of the guard, dare I say it."
Paes and Sa have won 65 doubles titles between them and are one of the most experienced duos on the circuit.
However, Daniell said this was deserved win for him and Demoliner.
"With Leander you know you're going to get some interesting shots on court," he said.
"You know he's going to get some incredible reflex [shots] back and the crowd on his side, because he's a great entertainer.
"When you're playing against experienced guys like that, as we saw in the second set, you give them a sniff and they're at your throats, but we knew that going in and Marcelo and I are experienced enough now to take a bit of a beating and resistance and still come through.
"I'm proud of us today, we lost the edge in the second set, but held strong in the tiebreaker and we deserved it in the end."
For Demoliner, this victory was a special one, to defeat a fellow Brazilian in Sa, who has consistently been one of the best doubles players in the world.
"It was the first time I've beat Andre," Demoliner said.
"Many matches were close, I had match points, but it was my first time beating him.
"Also it's the first time I've beat Leander Paes, who's a legend, so it's a great victory."