Fleming and Marray win in battle of Wimbledon Champions; Jamie Murray loses in Sarasota

By Philip James

Colin Fleming/Jonathan Marray def Frederik Nielsen/Julian Knowle 6-4, 7-6(7)

Brits Colin Fleming and Jonathan Marray beat Frederik Nielsen and Julian Knowle in a high-quality doubles match in the first round of the Monte Carlo Masters today.

It was the first time that Marray and Nielsen, from Denmark, have played against each other since capturing the 2012 Wimbledon men’s doubles title as team mates.

Though they also played in the end of year World Tour Finals together, Nielsen always stressed that he wanted to concentrate on his singles game and the pair would not become a regular team.

Marray and Fleming, ranked 16th and 29th respectively in doubles, have formed a promising partnership of their own this year and were just strong enough to edge the victory today.

With the teams knowing each other so well and the rankings so even (Nielsen and Knowle are ranked 17th and 26th) it was always likely to be a tight match and so it proved with the all-British team coming from a break down in both sets.

Nielsen and his Knowle partner drew first blood on the clay, breaking Fleming in the third game of the first set to lead 2-1, and they had break points on Marray’s next serve to make it a double break.

But 32-year-old Marray, who was not to be broken all day, held with some strong serving to keep the set alive and from 2-4 down the Brits reeled off four games in a row.

First Fleming held to reduce the deficit, and then they broke the serve of the 32-year-old Austrian to level it up at 4-4.

Marray then held from 15-40 before they broke Nielsen to take the set 6-4 in just under 35 minutes.

Chances to break were rarer in the second set, with the Brits having break points in just one game, their opponents two, as each player held twice to make it 4-4.

But straight after Nielsen, 29, held from 30-40, he and Knowle created three break points of their own on Fleming’s serve, taking the first.

At 5-4 Knowle just needed to hold to force a third-set Champions Tie-break but, typical of rollercoaster momentum of match, the Brits broke back, themselves taking the first of three break points.

As the set reached the tie-break Fleming and Murray stepped on the gas, winning the first four points and eventually reaching 6-3 for three match points.

However the excitement was not over yet as Nielsen and Knowle fought back, themselves winning four points in a row, saving all three match points to make it 7-6 with a set point on their own serve.

But Murray and Fleming were not to be denied, winning the next two return points before finally serving out on their fourth break point to win the match 6-4, 7-6 (7) in an hour and 22 minutes.

In round two things only get tougher for Marray and Fleming, 28, as tomorrow they face fourth seeds Jean-Julien Rojer and Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi who had a bye in round one.

Rojer and Quereshi, ranked 8th and 9th in doubles respectively, have played together regularly since the start of the 2012 season, reaching 5 finals together and winning three of them, including the Miami Masters in March.

However Fleming has already beaten them once this season, 6-4, 7-6 in the final of the Open 13 Indoor ATP250 tournament in February when playing with Rohan Bopanna.

In less happy news, Jamie Murray and John Peers were unable to build on last week’s ATP250 title in Houston, as they lost in the first round of the Sarasota Open Challenger in Florida where they were seeded second.

Perplexingly, after beating the world-number-one Bryan brothers in Sunday’s final, they lost today to infrequent doubles players and draw qualifiers, Ilija Bozoljac and Somdev Devvarman.