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Ram/Salisbury Halt Kubot/Melo Comeback In London

  • Posted: Nov 15, 2020

Australian Open champions Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury dodged an early upset bid from the eighth-seeded Lukasz Kubot and Marcelo Melo to make a winning start to their Nitto ATP Finals campaign. 

The second seeds edged through a closely-contested first set, but had to fight through a Match Tie-break after dropping the second set as Kubot and Melo mounted a comeback. Ram and Salisbury combined for three breaks of serve as they claimed a 7-5, 3-6, 10-7 victory.

Ram and Salisbury’s victory breaks their ATP Head2Head series tie with three wins to two against Kubot and Melo, and they avenge a defeat at this same stage in last year’s ATP Finals that saw Kubot and Melo successfully pull off a similar comeback en route to the semi-finals.

This time around at The O2, Ram and Salisbury stayed solid as Kubot and Melo ruthlessly targeted their second serve – they won just 22% of points behind their second delivery, and lost their serves four times in the contest. 

With just one break point on offer across the first seven games, it was Salisbury who set up the second on the Pole’s serve with a backhand winner splitting the No. 8 seeds – leaving Kubot watching as he let it go. Kubot served up two double faults to give Ram and Salisbury a 5-3 lead. 

Kubot quickly redeemed himself as he and Melo set up a break-back point with a forehand down the middle, and he crushed a backhand return down the line to get them back on serve. Melo saved set point at 5-4 with a big first serve that went unreturned to keep them in the set, but the pair couldn’t fend off a second as Kubot’s serve was broken once again, with Ram blasting a return to take the set 7-5. 

The Polish man found another level in the second set as Kubot and Melo broke early at 2-1 made their way back – just as they did in their 2019 comeback. They took advantage as Salisbury double-faulted to set up a break point at 4-2, and another Kubot backhand return down the line, this time at full stretch, sealed the double break. 


Going into the fourth consecutive Match Tie-break of their ATP Head2Head rivalry, Ram and Salisbury quickly took a minibreak lead at 3/1 as the American’s forehand return dropped precisely in the corner out of reach. They extended their lead as Salisbury smashed a chipped return for a 4/2 lead, and inched closer to victory as another Ram forehand return winner put them at 8/4. They emphatically closed out their first victory of the group after an hour and 43 minutes.

They now sit at No.2 in Group Mike Bryan, right behind fifth seeds Wesley Koolhof and Nikola Mektic who also won their opener. All eight doubles groups at the Nitto ATP Finals are in contention for the top spot on the FedEx ATP Rankings, making each matchup even more crucial. 

“It is all to play for for the title and the No. 1 [position in the FedEx ATP Doubles Team Rankings]. For us, it has been a big goal since we left Australia,” said Salisbury. “We were in the No. 1 spot since then and just went to second after Bruno and Mate went above us in Paris. It is great that that is to play for and extra motivation.”

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Doubles At The Nitto ATP Finals: Fleming, Woodforde Share Best Memories

  • Posted: Nov 15, 2020

The Nitto ATP Finals, which celebrates its 50-year anniversary in 2020, has witnessed world-class tennis, changes in format and location, but the tournament’s prestige remains just the same. spoke to two former doubles titlists, seven-time champion Peter Fleming and two-time winner Mark Woodforde, who both left an indelible mark on the sport.

Alongside John McEnroe, Fleming dominated the doubles tournament when it was held at Madison Square Garden in New York. The pair claimed seven consecutive titles at the event from 1978 to 1984 and dropped just one set in 14 matches.

For Fleming, who grew up just an hour’s drive away from the venue in New Jersey, and McEnroe, a proud New Yorker, playing at Madison Square Garden gave them the opportunity to follow in the footsteps of their idols. Both players grew up as fans of the New York Knicks and New York Rangers, who play their home games at the iconic Manhattan venue.

“It was really exciting because Madison Square Garden was the mecca of sports that I loved growing up,” said Fleming. “The New York Knicks were a huge favourite, as they were with everybody in the New York area because in the late 60s, early 70s when I was in high school, they were world champions. They were such a charismatic team and such an iconic team. I remember my Dad taking me to the Garden to watch [Ken] Rosewall versus [Rod] Laver and Arthur Ashe and the rest playing when I was a little kid, so it just had such huge emotion. To go there seven years and not lose was a thrill.”

John McEnroe and Peter Fleming won seven consecutive Nitto ATP Finals trophies from 1978 to 1984.

When Fleming and McEnroe dominated the tournament in New York, they played just two matches each year. The tournament was contested as a regular knockout event, with four teams starting the tournament in the semi-finals. The tournament expanded to six teams for their final three title runs, but the pair received a quarter-final bye on each occasion.

That format meant that Fleming and McEnroe had no time to find their form or adapt to conditions. They needed to be ready from the first match against one of their five biggest rivals.

“In a normal tournament, you might play an unseeded pair that would allow you to ease your way into the draw and into your form,” said Fleming. “In this case, you had to get started right away.”

The Port Washington Tennis Academy graduates played together on the ATP Tour for the final time at the ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament in March 1987. Just three years later, McEnroe played a pivotal role in the formation of another legendary doubles pair in the history of the Nitto ATP Finals.

After seven tour-level appearances alongside Woodforde between 1988 and 1990, which included a title run at the 1989 US Open, McEnroe sat down with the Aussie to explain why they would no longer be playing together and shared his advice for the future.

“He recommended that I keep playing doubles as often as possible. He listed four or five points,” said Woodforde. “[John said], ‘I think you should play with an Australian. I think you should pair up with a right-hander. I think you should pair up with someone younger and I think you should pair up with someone that has a passion to be a real tennis player.’

“John and I understood that because we spoke the same language. A real tennis player meant someone who played singles and doubles each week and didn’t specialise in singles or doubles. As he was saying these categories, I had some names in my head but as he kept going down the list, my list kept getting smaller. It was almost like, ‘Well, Todd Woodbridge’. Later that year, I asked Todd whether he was interested in playing… Thankfully he said yes.”

Between 1991 and 1999, Woodforde and Woodbridge, known as ‘The Woodies’, made nine consecutive appearances at the Nitto ATP Finals. Unlike Fleming and McEnroe, the Aussies played the tournament at a range of venues during a period when the Nitto ATP Finals singles and doubles competitions were played in different locations (1986-2001).

“[The Nitto ATP Finals] was always on our list. [It was] an achievement that we would equate to finishing No. 1 or holding onto the No. 1 spot as long as possible… It was an achievement to actually participate in the year-ending finals,” said Woodforde.

Todd Woodbridge and Mark Woodforde claimed the Nitto ATP Finals trophy in 1992 and 1996.

Woodforde’s most cherished memory of competing at the tournament came in his second appearance in Johannesburg in 1992. Just one year after falling to John Fitzgerald and Anders Jarryd in the semi-finals, the Woodies earned an opportunity for revenge in the 1992 championship match.

Woodforde and Woodbridge led the final by two sets, before the defending champions turned the match in their favour and forced a deciding set. But the Woodies were handed an unexpected opportunity to regroup, as Fitzgerald and Jarryd halted their own momentum by leaving the court for a bathroom break.

“We were playing one of the all-time great doubles teams in the final of the year-end championships. It was big for us,” said Woodforde. “They won the fourth set and Todd and I started to get a little jittery and a little panicked that we had blew this two-set lead… We looked across and Fitzgerald and Jarryd went for a bathroom break.

”That took a lot longer than a normal change of ends at the end of a set… We jumped on that fact, that they didn’t want to keep the momentum going, get stuck into a fifth [set] and see if they could get an early break. It allowed us this extra time to breathe and relax. It brought us together.”

To win the tournament for the first time was a huge moment for the pair, but it also represented a shift in power. Woodforde and Woodbridge ended the year as the No. 1 team in the FedEx ATP Doubles Team Rankings and Woodforde also finished a season at No. 1 in the individual FedEx ATP Doubles Rankings for the first time.

“There was pride at winning the championship, but importantly [we did it] by beating a pair that we held high on a pedestal,” said Woodforde. “It was almost like the baton had been passed over from Fitzgerald, who had really been Australia’s leading doubles player for a number of years.

“I don’t know if you could say that he passed it over, because we took it. We wanted to take it and run with it ourselves. It was just a massive victory for us. For me, knowing that we finished as the year-end No. 1 team for the first time in our careers and, individually, I hit No. 1 on the Rankings. You can imagine the celebrations that took place that night in Johannesburg.”

Woodforde, who also won the 1996 edition of the event with Woodbridge in Hartford, has been impressed by the evolution of the event in recent years. The singles and doubles competitions came back together in 2003 and the doubles tournament has enjoyed strong support at its most recent home: The O2 in London.

Nicolas Mahut and Pierre-Hugues Herbert won the 2019 Nitto ATP Finals doubles trophy.

Since 2009, more than 2.8 million fans have visited the tournament in South East London. The 17,500-seat stadium has provided doubles players with the opportunity to showcase their skills in front of packed crowds and a global TV audience. Each session at The O2 is comprised of one doubles and one singles match, allowing fans to enjoy both forms of the game with one ticket.

“I have been at The O2 and I do look at it with pride,” said Woodforde. “The fact that they are playing the year-end finals under one roof. I am jealous of it… I think it was an important, key move by the leaders of the Tour to separate the singles and doubles [events between 1986 and 2001], but now I am really pleased for doubles that it is back. The umbilical cord has been placed back in the relationship between singles and doubles… It helps the singles event and I think it gives the doubles players the opportunity to play in some major stadiums and major market areas like London. It has been such a success at The O2.”

Even for Fleming, who played at his ‘mecca of sports’, the tournament’s successful run at Madison Square Garden cannot compare to The O2. In one of the most recognised venues in entertainment, doubles has been a consistent hit with crowds at the London venue.

”When we were playing doubles, the crowds were nothing like the are at The O2 now. What has transpired for the Nitto ATP Finals at The O2 is nothing short of miraculous and I would kill to have played in years past with the crowds they have had,” said Fleming. “The end of the doubles matches have been virtually sold out. They have played in front of packed houses, almost 18,000 people at The O2. What a thrill that would have been.”

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Djokovic Honoured With Year-End No. 1 Trophy

  • Posted: Nov 15, 2020

Novak Djokovic was honoured on Sunday afternoon at the Nitto ATP Finals, receiving his ATP Tour No. 1 trophy from ATP Chairman Andrea Gaudenzi for finishing as the year-end No. 1 in the FedEx ATP Rankings for a record-equalling sixth time.

The Serbian finishes as World No. 1 for the sixth time in the past 10 years (also 2011-12, ‘14-15 and ‘18), draws level with his childhood hero, American Pete Sampras, who ended six straight years at the pinnacle of men’s professional tennis between 1993 and 1998.


“I’m very happy,” Djokovic told on Sunday at The O2 in London. “It’s been a strange year for all of us with a six months’ gap for all of us. We restarted the season in August, and I continued where I left off before lockdown and had a terrific run. I’m very pleased with the way things went.

“I have to say a huge thank you to my team for supporting me in the hard time and trusting me. This is the crown for all achievements in the year and it’s unreal that I’ve managed to finish the year at No. 1 for a sixth time.

“Obviously I am super proud of it, but I have mixed emotions because of what is going on in the world. I can’t be ignorant to that, although I have achieved one of the biggest goals in sport. I feel for many people in the world going through hardship and my heart goes out to them.”

The 33-year-old Serbian has enjoyed a stellar season, capturing four titles and compiling a 39-3 match record. Djokovic lifted an eighth Australian Open trophy (d. Thiem) in January, two ATP Masters 1000s at the Western & Southern Open (d. Raonic) and the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome (d. Schwartzman), plus the ATP 500-level Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships (d. Tsitsipas).

He competes this week in Group Tokyo 1970 alongside Daniil Medvedev, Alexander Zverev and Diego Schwartzman at the Nitto ATP Finals in London.

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Koolhof/Mektic Earn Opening Win In London

  • Posted: Nov 15, 2020

Wesley Koolhof and Nikola Mektic opened their Nitto ATP Finals campaign on Sunday with a 6-7(3), 7-6(4), 10-7 victory against Kevin Krawietz and Andreas Mies.

The fifth seeds won the final five points of the match to improve to 21-12 this year after two hours and three minutes. Koolhof and Mektic, who are making their team debut at the Nitto ATP Finals, move to 1-0 in Group Mike Bryan.

“In doubles, it always comes down to one or two points,” said Koolhof. “I think we actually played a pretty good match. We were up a break in both sets… The [Match Tie-break] was a rollercoaster. We were up and then we were 5/7 down. In the end, we managed to turn it around.”

The US Open finalists extended their ATP Head2Head series lead against Krawietz and Mies to 3-1. All four meetings between the pairs have taken place this season. Koolhof and Mektic also defeated their Germans at the Adelaide International in January and the Hamburg European Open in September.

Koolhof and Mektic put their opponents under regular pressure on serve and earned the first break of the match at 4-3, as Koolhof attacked well with his forehand. But Krawietz and Mies responded immediately. Koolhof committed double faults in crucial moments to drop serve in the next game and hand the Germans an early lead in the tie-break. Mies extended that advantage by attacking Koolhof’s second serve and struck an overhead winner to clinch the set.

After trading breaks early in the second set, Koolhof and Mektic ripped return winners in the second-set tie-break and converted their first set point with an ace to level the match. In the Match Tie-break, Koolhof returned with aggression to recover from a mini-break down. The fifth seeds clinched victory when Mies failed to control a backhand return.

”It was definitely a close one,” said Mektic. “I think through the entire match we felt like we were a little bit the better team. We were a little bit unfortunate in the first set… We kept saying to ourselves that we were good, we played good and [to] just keep digging. In the end, it paid off.”

Did You Know?
All eight teams competing at this year’s Nitto ATP Finals are in contention to finish as the year-end No. 1 team in the FedEx ATP Doubles Team Rankings.

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Why Murray Said Monfils Was ‘On Fire’ During Twitch Nitto ATP Finals Preview

  • Posted: Nov 15, 2020

Gael Monfils is teaming up with Andy Murray all week long on Twitch to chat about the action at the Nitto ATP Finals, and their preview episode dropped on the Frenchman’s popular livestreaming channel full of draw analysis, hot tennis takes and of course, lots of banter. 

“Can I just say, before we talk about this, your English is on fire! What happened there?” an impressed Murray teased Monfils early on in the broadcast. 

“Now I feel the pressure!” Monfils laughed, giving “all credit” to girlfriend and WTA player Elina Svitolina for his rapidly expanding vocabulary. (He poked Murray back later in the show after the Brit told a fan “merci”, joking, “Whoa, that French!”)

Monfils and Murray reflected on their own experiences at the season-ending event, with both the singles and doubles field officially set ahead of this year’s edition. Murray revealed an interesting tidbit about how players prepare for the event: beyond the on-court tactics, there’s even a strategy to the practices. 


“One of the things we all do, because we know the groups a little bit in advance, we always practise with the players that are in the opposite groups,” Murray explained, in response to a fan question. “So for example all of the players in Novak’s group, they won’t be practising with each other. They’ll be practising with the players in the other group, so as to not give any of our tactics away or so our opponents don’t see how we’re playing. That’s one of the things that always happens.”

Murray lifted the Nitto ATP Finals trophy in 2016, and he had some words of advice for players gearing up for this year’s 50th edition in London.

“It is difficult to go into an event and play against the best players in the world from the very first match, so the preparation is ultra important for this one,” he said. “Because if you’re not feeling good and you haven’t prepared properly, you will get found out… If you’re not well-prepared physically and mentally, you’re likely to lose your first match.”

The pair also gave their breakdown of Group Tokyo 1970, lead by Novak Djokovic alongside Daniil Medvedev, Alexander Zverev and Diego Schwartzman, and Group London 2020, headed up by Rafael Nadal with Dominic Thiem, Stefanos Tsitsipas and Andrey Rublev.

“I mean, at the end those guys played the best for sure during the season, but I also feel like they all deserve [to be there], even down to the last spot,” said Monfils, who made his own Nitto ATP Finals appearance in 2016. 

Monfils and Murray were getting ready to analyse the doubles field – which had just been set with the qualification of Edouard Roger-Vasselin and Jurgen Meltzer in Sofia that same morning – but Murray just wasn’t up for it.

“The doubles is a little bit of a sore subject for me,” he admitted with a wry smile, as it was in fact Jamie Murray and partner Neal Skupski who were edged out by Roger-Vasselin and Melzer. “It meant my brother couldn’t qualify for London, so I’m a bit upset to talk about that now, to be honest with you.”

“Let’s just move on, I don’t want to upset you,” Monfils responded with a laugh. 

Monfils and Murray will continue these daily Twitch streams on the Frenchman’s channel beginning Monday to recap all the results at the season finale.

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Former World No. 1 Bjorkman Previews The London Doubles Field

  • Posted: Nov 15, 2020

Jonas Bjorkman won the Nitto ATP Finals title twice in doubles, accomplishing the feat 12 years apart (1994 and 2006). The Swede competed in doubles at the season finale eight times and also played in the singles field in 1997, when he defeated Yevgeny Kafelnikov and Michael Chang en route to the semi-finals. 

The former doubles World No. 1 will be analysing this year’s Nitto ATP Finals action for Eurosport. But before the action begins on Sunday, he spoke to about what to expect from each of the eight doubles teams competing in London.

Mate Pavic and Bruno Soares
“The Brazilian boys are the consistent guys. [In this case it’s Bruno]. He’s relaxed, you know what to expect. You always know they’re going to make a lot of balls and their partner is going to be more up and down, maybe not as consistent. But when they play well, that’s a tough team to beat. You’ve got the lefty-righty, which is a great combination as well. They’re playing with a lot of experience. They’ve now won Grand Slams together and with different partners.”

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Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury
“I definitely think it has helped a lot that they have one guy who is a little bit older, so you’ve got the experience and you have the young guy coming up. They’ve both been focussing on doubles the past couple of years… Ram has been around a long time and played good singles as well, so he knows what it takes. Both of them are kind of flashy. They’re a little bit streaky, but they’ve also been showing some good consistency the past two years since they started playing together. It seems like they’ve been finding each other nicely… They’ve just been getting better and better and they’re definitely a team I like to watch to see how they’re playing.”


Kevin Krawietz and Andreas Mies
“What’s amazing is that they disappeared a little bit after they won Roland Garros last year. They had a few good results, but you couldn’t see the consistency… Then [they won] won back-to-back [Roland Garros titles], which is an amazing accomplishment. It will be interesting to see how they adjust to the future after winning the French Open again.”

“I think winning now, they will probably take the next step forward and be a little bit more consistent and be a contender to win more big tournaments in the future… The ones who have won the big ones [this year] obviously have a little bit more confidence just out of that and going in to play the [Nitto] ATP Finals is the biggest achievement with a full year. They won a Slam, so they really deserve to be in the top eight and I think they can be one of those outsiders who are really dangerous for every team out there.”

Marcel Granollers and Horacio Zeballos
“You’d probably expect them to play better on the slow surfaces, but at the same time… neither one of them plays a typical clay-court game for being a Spaniard and South American. In a way, I’m not surprised that they do well on the hard courts. They’ve been around a long time. They’ve proven their all-around game, which they needed to play well in singles. They’re two really nice guys. It’s great to see that they’re doing well in doubles as well.”

Nikola Mektic and Wesley Koolhof
“I had the opportunity to follow Mektic quite a lot on the way up, because he’s good friends with Marin Cilic. When I coached Marin, Mektic was around and they even played together, because he needed Marin in that way to get into tournaments. He’s a hard worker like all the Croatians. He knows what it takes and has a good fighting spirit on the court. He’s just been getting better and better each year and has had some really good results. As a team, it seems they’ve just connected really well… They have adjusted well to play with different partners [in the past], which is always a strength. The better you are at adjusting to play with different players, the better doubles player you are. It’s a good combo and they were really close to going all the way to win Slams this year, so I think they’ve got a chance to do really well.”


John Peers and Michael Venus
“It’s a good combo. They are two guys who know how to play doubles. They come from countries that have great tradition, especially Peers with the Australian tradition of how to play doubles. We’ve had so many great champions from Down Under. Venus I’d say came as a little bit of a surprise, but after he came up quickly and progressed, he’s been very consistent to stay up near the top [of the sport] and has done that really, really well the past couple of years. That’s a team that maybe needs a little bit of confidence to play well, but when they play their best tennis they definitely have a shot to beat everyone.”

Lukasz Kubot and Marcelo Melo
“I would say it’s a great combination. You’ve got Lukasz, who is playing very aggressive. He’s hitting the ball extremely hard. He goes for it all the time. Then you have Melo who is a tricky player with his great touch. He has a huge advantage at the net with his height. I think it’s a good mix. He probably plays his returns a bit softer to get Kubot involved and the same with Melo at the net. He wants to get involved as much as he can. It’s a tough team to beat, especially when Kubot is on fire.”

Jurgen Melzer and Edouard Roger-Vasselin
“Two old guys who I know very well and I hope they don’t get offended by being the old guys! It almost felt like they were going to retire, but they have come back strong and I think maybe with family life you change a little bit of the mentality. You play a little bit more relaxed, maybe you can enjoy the tennis a bit more and the results are coming. I think it’s a good way to finish for Jurgen [who announced he is retiring after the 2021 Australian Open]. He had a great career. These two guys both played singles and doubles as well, not only doubles. They are very solid in both departments.”

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