Something about the lawns at Wimbledon agrees with Marcelo Melo and Ivan Dodig.
The No.12 seeds in the Gentlemen’s Doubles advanced to the semi-finals at a Grand Slam together for the first time after eliminating Jurgen Melzer and James Blake in four sets.
The Brazilian-Croatian pairing made the quarter-finals at the All England Club in 2012, and thanks to their 7-5, 6-0, 6-7(0), 6-4 victory on Wednesday, went one better to set up a final four clash with No.4 seeds Leander Paes and Radek Stepanek.
“I think we like to play the grass court and Wimbledon – I feel so comfortable. It’s good for our [style], how we play it’s good for us because it’s a fast surface,” Melo explained.
“I think Ivan returns pretty well, and serves well. We help each other out and take pressure off each other. I can help him more in the net. [If] I have something not good, he comes with something really good, and same way [in reverse].”
Indeed, as the match got under way on No.3 Court, the combination of Melo’s powerful serve, height and reach around the net, coupled with Dodig’s obvious returning prowess was always going to prove difficult to suppress.
In playing Blake and Melzer, they were taking on a player who had eliminated them at this stage last year. Melzer was with Philipp Petzschner then, and the Austrian was also a Wimbledon champion, having teamed with now-wife Iveta Benesova to win the mixed title in 2011.
It seemed to motivate the Brazilian-Croatian pair, who were on their game from the start. Melzer and Blake, by contrast, were awry, and when Blake pushed a volley wide and the Melzer double faulted, they had relinquished their serve and the first set. Flinging his racket in disgust, Melzer drew a warning from the chair umpire, and carried that anger into the second set, which resulted in more errors and double faults coming off his racket.
With a two-set lead soon safely pocketed away, Melo and Dodig went up a break in the third, appearing certain victors. Yet Melzer suddenly found his game, threading an off-forehand passing shot winner into the alley to break back. They faced a match point in the 10th game but saved it, with Blake smashing a winner to level scores at 5-5.
In the ensuing tiebreak, the American-Austrian duo eradicated their errors and ceaselessly attacked, trampling over their opponents without dropping a point.
“I think it’s important in doubles that we just keep playing our game, we have to be positive together, not get [angry] with each other,” Dodig said of the momentum swing. “In doubles, it’s always one point that can turn everything on your side.”
That point came in the very next game, when Dodig hooked a forehand winner up the line past Blake and Melzer to score an immediate service break for the 12th seeds.
They maintained that advantage for the rest of the set, and found themselves serving for the match in the 10th game. Dodig made no mistake, slamming an ace out wide to reach match point, and eliciting a return error two points later to secure victory.
Paes and Stepanek will present an even tougher challenge. The pairs have met three times, with all matches going the distance. Melo and Dodig lost last week in Eastbourne but, perhaps more significantly, beat them 8-6 in the fifth set in the third round at Wimbledon last year.
“In general we always play tough matches, so basically we know each other well,” Dodig said. “It’s for sure gonna be an interesting match. We have to focus on ourselves. This is for us together our best result so far that we’re going to [be going] for.”
20:24...But boy, it was a barrow-load of fun. I hope you enjoyed it even half as much as we did. Thank you for all your messages throughout, you've been the glue holding us together as the edges frayed amid the madness. Now if you'll excuse me, it's time for us Brits to raise a toast to Andy Murray and Fred Perry. British sporting legends both.
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