Heading into Friday’s final day of round-robin play at the Nitto ATP Finals, Jurgen Melzer and Edouard Roger-Vasselin needed to win their final match in straight sets over Marcel Granollers and Horacio Zeballos in order to qualify for the semifinals out of Group Bob Bryan. Or so we thought.
Earlier in the day, Mate Pavic and Bruno Soares won their second contest of the week in a match tiebreak over John Peers and Michael Venus to put the pressure on. Melzer and Roger-Vasselin, who lost to the Croatian-Brazilian tandem in their opening match at The O2 Arena, crucially extended their first set against Granollers and Zeballos after breaking back for 5-5.
On the next changeover, the most unlikely of scenarios began to unfold when Granollers took an injury timeout to receive treatment on his right shoulder. After firing an ace to save their second set point, the Spaniard turned to his box with a look full of concern. He and Zeballos received a time violation, before watching Roger-Vasselin deliver an ace up the T. Granollers then proceeded to call it a day.
As a result, Melzer and Roger-Vasselin were credited with winning in straight sets and thus ended the group stage on top, bumping Pavic and Soares down to third. Had Granollers and Zeballos successfully served out the set in the 10th game, and then stopped playing, the Austrian and Frenchman would be heading home. Instead, Melzer and Roger-Vasselin will take on Australian Open champions Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury and Granollers and Zeballos will meet Wesley Koolhof and Nikola Metkic in Saturday's semifinals.
According to the ATP rulebook, "A team who retires during the round robin because of illness or injury may continue in the competition if it is approved by the tournament Doctor."
In the case of a doubles player not being approved to carry on competing if his retirement happens at the end of round-robin play and before the knockout stage, there does not appear to be a rule listed for this scenario. Only that "any team who withdraws from any round-robin match after the first round shall not be eligible for the single elimination competition."
With that, one would assume if Granollers doesn't get the green light—or decides he is unfit to play—that Koolhof and Metkic will receive a walkover into the final.
It’s been quite the week of events for Melzer and Roger-Vasselin, who edged out Jamie Murray and Neal Skupski for London's eighth and final spot by reaching the Sofia final, where they abandoned the title match against the Brits when Melzer cited a shoulder injury of his own. Against Peers and Venus on Wednesday, the two saved five match points in eventually eking out a match tiebreak, 12-10, to remain in contention.
That's 2020 for you.