Canadian Daniel Nestor and Belarusian partner Max Mirnyi struggled to win their opening match at the ATP World Tour Finals on Monday, defeating Swede Robert Lindstedt and Horia Tecau of Romania 4-6, 7-6 (1), 12-10.
The match lasted one hour 36 minutes, with second-seed Nestor and Mirnyi saving a match point in the tiebreaking third set.
Mirnyi closed out the victory on his team's second opportunity with a winning volley to the open court.
Nestor and Mirnyi will split up at the end of the week. Nestor, the 40-year-old from Toronto, will play in 2013 with Indian Mahesh Bhupathi.
Nestor has a fearsome reputation at the year-end event, playing on the winning doubles team in four of the last five tournaments and winning the trophy a year ago with Mirnyi.
Nestor, who won the French open with Mirnyi this season, came to London after earning a title in Basel with former partner Nenad Zimonjic. Nestor and Zimonjic won the London year-end event in 2008 and 2010.
Nestor improved to 32-19 in season-wrapup events. Monday's result was welcome as he and Mirnyi hit a rough patch after Wimbledon, going 4-7 after starting the season 37-9.
Nestor is looking to end 2012 with his 81st career doubles trophy, trailing on the all-time list behind Mike Bryan (84), Todd Woodbridge (83) and Bob Bryan (82) as only players with 80 doubles titles in Open era.
Mirnyi and Nestor lost the opening set on a break of Mirnyi for 4-5 thanks to a winning passing shot. But they got straight back into the battle to claim a tight second set in a match where they never earned a break point.
From the start of the second-set tiebreak, Nestor and Mirnyi won 11 of 12 points to go up 4-0 in the third set.
They lost the next five games before powering through for the opening win of the round-robin event which ends next Monday.