LAHORE    -     Pakistan’s Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi and Mexico’s Santiago Gonzalez have won the US Men’s Clay Court Championships doubles title after beating fourth-seeded British brothers Ken and Neal Skupski 3-6, 6-4, 10-6 in the 2019 ATP Houston final.

The Skupski brothers saved a break point in the sixth game before they broke Aisam and Gonzalez in the following game to take a 4-3 first-set lead. The Britons then held on to their serve in the following game before they broke Pak-Mexican duo once again in the ninth game to seal the opener 6-3.

The Pak-Mexican duo saved a break point in the fourth game before they got their first break of the match in the seventh game of the second set to go 4-3 up. They forced a decider after winning the 10th game of the second set 6-4 on a deciding point.

Aisam/Gonzalez continued their run at the beginning of the third set as they led 6-2 after the opening eight points but the Skupski brothers won the following three points to reduce the deficit to 6-5. Yet, the Britons never leveled the result as the Pak-Mexican duo kept their focus to seal the deal and win their first doubles team title on the clay of Houston.

The Pak-Mexican duo converted 1-of-3 of their break point chances and saved 2-of-5 of the break point opportunities, they faced in just less than an hour and a half of action. The Skupski brothers played alongside each other for the first time since February and the Delray Beach Open. The Britons have now lost back-to-back finals as they also ended runners-up in Delray Beach.

Aisam/Gonzalez had eliminated the top-seeded Bryans in the semis Saturday, thwarting their bid for a seventh Clay Courts title, then rallied to claim their first-ever championship together on the ATP Tour, in the second final they have reached of 2019. But 11 years ago, they had paired up to win a Challenger event in Brazil.

“Singles were the priority then,” Aisam said, admitting they joined forces that long-ago week on a serendipitous whim. But, by the end of last season both were in need of fresh starts with new permanent partners and so here they are. Pakistan’s tennis ace started the year poorly health-wise, having to pull out of the Australian Open with a back injury, but said, “Santi stuck with me, all thanks to him.”

“We’ll have ups and downs,” Gonzalez said, “but, at the end, it’s going to be more ups, I think. The partnership is doing great.” Separately, if collectively, they have 30 ATP championships, 17 for the 39-year-old Aisam and 13 for the 36-year-old Gonzalez.

They admit the 40-year-old Bryans, who have won twice on the Tour this year – with Bob having come back from major hip surgery no less – offer much inspiration for their own new chapter. “Thirty-nine,” Aisam said, “is the new 29. I feel really young at heart. Age is just a number.”