(August 3, 2014) WASHINGTON, DC – The Dutch and Romanian doubles team of Jean-Julien Rojer and Horia Tecau have combined for their fifth doubles title of 2014, at the Citi Open in Washington, DC. Their opponents, Australia’s Sam Groth and India’s Leander Paes, were competing in their first tournament together, reaching the final after a tough semifinal against American team Sam Querrey and Steve Johnson.
It was Groth and Paes who made the first move on Stadium Court in Rock Creek Park, breaking Tecau’s first service game and surging to a 4-1 lead before their opponents edged their way back into the match by breaking Paes’ serve once to level, and then twice to take the first set 7-5. “Once we got back the break,” said Rojer after the match, “We were able to get some more energy and confidence, and then we just rolled throughout the match.”
Despite Groth delivering seven aces in six service games throughout the course of the match – including two consecutive aces at speeds of 144mph, then 143mph – it was his serve being broken that allowed a 4-2 buffer for Tecau and Rojer, which they would not relinquish.
Although Paes and Groth’s finesse and reflex volleying kept Tecau and Rojer on their toes – and provided the DC crowd with some high-quality entertainment – it was not enough to prevent the four-time ATP doubles titlists from earning their fifth title of the year at the Citi Open with a 7-5, 6-4 match lasting an hour and a quarter.
“It’s because we’re friends first,” said Rojer on the synergy he and his partner are currently enjoying in 2014, “I’ve known him for a long time. We can just say a few things to each other and not get so upset about it, I think that helps.”
“We were able to watch a few of their matches during this week,” said Tecau, describing their preparation for the final, “We made a plan for the match today, we knew what to expect. Groth is a big server, with Lee (Leander) at the net. We knew that’s gonna be a tough task. We were just hoping to get in the return games, when Lee was serving, and engage Groth at the net, and put a lot of pressure on Lee when he’s serving.”
There was mild tension between the teams late in the match, when a Tecau volley connected squarely with Paes’ back, the Indian world No.12 unresponsive to the Romanian No. 30’s apologies. “He tagged us a few times during the matches that we played,” said Tecau, “You know, it’s fine, it’s something that you accept. Our coach tells us if you don’t get hit, you’re not moving enough.”
Tecau alsow described the challenge of facing the Sam Groth serve, saying, “We don’t see many serves like that in doubles. But it was a good practice today, to return that serve and to be able to break him one time, it means a lot for us.”
The European doubles specialists will forgo any celebration of their win; the nature of the tour requiring that they get on an 8:00pm flight to Toronto for the Rogers Cup. “It’s a nice win and a great tournament for us, big tournament win, but some weeks you don’t get to celebrate. Many of the weeks we’ve won this year, we had a tournament the very next week, so we haven’t been able to really celebrate any of our wins.”
On Tuesday, they’ll play their first-round match in Toronto against the team of Feliciano Lopez and Jurgen Melzer, while Paes will reunite with his regular doubles partner Radek Stepanek. Groth, meanwhile, will recover from singles and doubles competition this week before preparing for the remainder of the Emirates US Open Series.
Dave Gertler is a tennis journalist, player and musician based in Sydney covering Citi Open for Tennis Panorama News. Follow his Twitter updates from the tournament @TennisNewsTPN, follow him on his personal Twitter @davegertler, read his blog, and listen to his podcast, Tennis Days.