| Leander Paes and David Rikl
New Delhi: Leander Paes and David Rikl clinched one of the three remaining berths for the doubles championships of the season-ending tennis Masters Cup in Houston from November 8-16, the ATP announced on Friday.
Paes, who has been sidelined since August due to a lesion in his brain and still awaits clearance from his doctors to enter competitive play, said he was looking forward to his return to the tour. “The last three months have been extremely difficult for me and I feel I have been granted a new lease, not only in tennis, but in life,” said Paes.
“It is an absolute honour to qualify for the Masters Cup, and I’m even more delighted to have achieved it in my first year with David Rikl.
“My destiny is in the hands of my doctors, and I’ll have my final MRI later this month to determine if I am able to play in Houston,” Paes said.
Paes had actually expected to qualify for the tournament and Friday’s announcement officially confirmed it.
Paes and Rikl, ranked No. 7 on the ATP doubles race, teamed together for the first time this season and they put together a 29-13 match record, winning titles in Dubai and Gstaad while reaching the final at TMS Miami.
They also advanced to the semi-finals at Masters Series events at Indian Wells and Hamburg, Roland Garros and Wimbledon. Paes was runner-up in three previous year-end championships in 1997, 1999 and 2000 with Mahesh Bhupathi.
Wayne Arthurs and Paul Hanley of Australia, and Martin Damm and Cyril Suk are the other two teams to qualify for the eight-team year-end championship.
They join Roland Garros champions Bob and Mike Bryan, Bhupathi-Max Mirnyi, Mark Knowles-Daniel Nestor, Wimbledon and US Open winners Jonas Bjorkman-Todd Woodbridge, and Australian Open champions Michael Llodra and Fabrice Santoro — ranked one to five in that order.
This is the first time since 1985 that the singles and doubles year-end championships will be held at the same venue. The Masters Cup is the culminating event of the men’s professional tennis season and is co-owned by the ATP, ITF and Grand Slams. The top seven players in the ATP champions race plus eligible Grand Slam champions qualify for the round-robin event.
Navratilova makes cut
Meanwhile, Jennifer Capriati and Martina Navratilova have also qualified for the season-ending WTA Tour championships next month in Los Angeles. Capriati made it into the eight-woman singles field, while Navratilova and Svetlana Kuznetsova qualified for doubles.
No. 1 Kim Clijsters, No. 2 Justine Henin-Hardenne and No. 3 Serena Williams secured berths in the singles meet. Lindsay Davenport pulled out on Thursday because of left foot surgery.