The Australian Open champions were joined by French Open champions Marc Lopez and [no relation] Feliciano Lopez, who would play against fellow Spaniards, the unseeded Guillermo Garcia-Lopez and Pablo Carreno Busta, in the other semi.
But the British/Brazilian duo had a still bigger challenge before they could contemplate a final Spanish showdown. Their opponents in the first semi-final were the French pairing that won the other Grand Slam this year, Wimbledon. Nicolas Mahut and Pierre-Hugues Herbert also happened to be defending US Open champions, were the first to qualify for the World Tour Finals, and the No1 ranked duo.
It was also this pairing that had exchanged that top doubles ranking with Murray and Soares—and beat them to the Monte-Carlo Masters title this year—and Murray had faced them and lost with a different partner in the final of this tournament last year.
The Frenchman, something of a father-and-son pairing between old hand, 34-year-old Mahut and 26-year-old Herbert, clicked right from the start to reach the final of the their first Grand Slam in Australia last year. This year, they went on a sweep of Indian Wells, Miami, Monte-Carlo, Queen’s and Wimbledon.
They looked ready and primed to become the first doubles team to win more than one Major in a year since the Bryan brothers in 2013.
But Murray and Soares, who unlike the Frenchmen are focused entirely on their doubles careers, have also clicked in their still-young partnership, and also already qualified for the WTFs in London.
In a tight first set, during which Herbert needed treatment on his hip, Murray and Soares broke the younger Frenchman’s serve in the 11th game and served out the set, 7-5. They had made not a single unforced error.
In the second, the French bounced back, and after failing to convert a break chance in the eighth game, they broke in the 10th game to take the set, 6-4.
But Herbert was beginning to look frail, not able to get quite enough height on his overheads and serving. He it was who was broken in the fifth game of the decider at the fourth attempt. The No4 seeds survived a break point to serve out the match, 6-3, after two hours.
Soares said: “We are very proud. It was a very tough game against the defending champions… When I’m returning well, Jamie puts a lot of pressure on at the net. He serves well with his tricky lefty serve and I’ve got an OK serve, and I’ve got him at the net, so I guess it works.”
Murray, asked what he would do different to avoid losing the final again here this year, quipped: “Don’t lose. It’s not much fun to lose finals!”
They would not know who they had to beat for a couple more hours, but one of the hot teams of the moment are the Lopez’s, and they have beaten Murray and Soares three times this year already.
And if a Grand Slam title was not enough for the duo, Marc Lopez had also teamed with Rafael Nadal to win Olympic gold just weeks ago. It was Lopez and Lopez, however, who ended the hoped-for fairytale conclusion to the Louis Armstrong stadium. They beat home favourites, the Bryans, in the last match ever to be played on that popular old court.
So only time would tell who Murray and Soares would face, and only time—and great doubles tennis—would determine whether they could become the only multiple Major champions in three years.
Note: Carreno Busta and Garcia-Lopez beat fellow Spaniards Feliciano Lopez and Marc Lopez 6-3 7-6 (7-4) in the second semi-final.
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BIOGRAPHY: Ethan Hazard
BIOGRAPHY: Daniel Sturridge