By Philip James
Former Wimbledon champion Jonathan Marray lost an agonising men’s double final in Marseille today as he and Paul Hanley lost six match points.
Marray, from Liverpool, and his Australian partner lost to the second-seeded French duo of Julien Benneteau and Edouard Roger-Vasselin 4-6, 7-6(6), 13-11 in just under an hour and 40 minutes.
Marray and Hanley were a break up in the second set and then four points up in the match tie-break but could not secure the win.
The loss means Marray still has just the one ATP tour title: the 2012 Wimbledon men’s doubles which he won with Dane Frederik Nielsen.
That was Marray’s first ever tour final and though he reached two last year with Scotland’s Colin Fleming he has been unable to add to his singular title.
In contrast, the three men on court with Marray in today had won a total of 40 men’s doubles titles; Hanley 26, Benneteau 8 and Roger-Vasselin 6.
This year Fleming has reunited with Ross Hutchins who returned to the tour after his battle with cancer, and Marray has teamed up with 36-year-old veteran Paul Hanley.
Though the pair had only one win in three tournaments prior to this week they have faced tough draws in each.
Their run to the final of the Open 13 ATP250 hard court tournament will provide encouragement that the team can work long-term.
Benneteau and Roger-Vasselin, the home favourites, appeared to also be pre-match favourites based on current rankings, though the respective career highs showed how the match was packed with quality.
Marray, currently ranked 46th in the world, has been as high as 15th while 82nd ranked Hanley was 5th in the world in 2006.
It was Benneteau and Roger-Vasselin, ranked 29th and 19th respectively, who had the first break points but Marray was able to hold as the first set went with serve.
But with Benneteau serving to stay in the set at 5-4, Marray and Hanley raced to 0-40 to earn their first break opportunity.
The first two were saved but a double fault conceded the third and the set, despite an unsuccessful challenge from the French pair.
The beginning of the second set saw the team exchange breaks and Marray and Hanley then broke again to lead 4-2 but could not serve out and a tie-break ensued.
The second seeds jumped out to a 6-1 lead before Marray and Hanley clawed back to 6-6, saving five set points.
But a dropped serve allowed the French pair a sixth set point which they took to set up a deciding 10-point match tie-break.
This time it was Marray and Hanley’s turn to make a fast start, turning a 4-1 lead into 9-5 and four match points.
All four went begging as Benneteau and Roger-Vasselin held their nerve to level at 9-9 and then save a fifth match point on their own serve at 10-9.
Another mini-break gave Marray and Hanley a sixth chance, this time on their own serve at 11-10.
But the French pair were not to be denied as they won three successive points to clinch their first match point and with it the Open13 title.