Cabal & Farah’s Long-Term Partnership Continues To Grow
Long before Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah won the first of their 19 tour-level doubles titles as a team, the Colombians first met as kids playing in local tournaments in their home city of Cali.
“The first picture we have together is…” began Farah, trailing off in thought.
“From ’93 or ’92,” offered Cabal. They were about six years old at the time.
“We probably played singles the first time we met,” Farah continued. “He would beat me at the beginning. He was a bit older than me and maybe a better player at that point. I remember I beat him the first time after two years of playing.”
After quickly rising to the top of the local tennis scene, they began competing in national events in Colombia. The first time they played a competitive doubles match together was around 1997, when they were roughly 10 years of age.
“Obviously we’re from the same city, so we were representing our department,” Cabal recalled. “We played together and we won the tournament the first time, and we just kept it rolling.”
“The coach just made us play together,” added Farah. “We knew each other and then we kicked it off from there. Once we won the first one, we kept playing.”
At that stage, no one could have guessed the heights the pair would go on to reach — a pair of ATP Masters 1000 titles in Rome, two Grand Slam titles at Wimbledon and the US Open in 2019, and joint ownership of the No. 1 spot in the Pepperstone ATP Doubles Rankings that same year.
“We were just too young,” Cabal said of their early days. “We were having fun and winning.”
Today, 25 years later, Cabal and Farah are still having fun and winning as a pair. They are the longest-tenured team on the ATP Tour, winning their first title in 2014. At age 36 and 35, respectively, they continue to grow as players, people and teammates.
“If you live life in the present, you keep evolving. It’s the way it is,” said Farah.
“In doubles, we’ve evolved in a lot of aspects. We’re better doubles players now than we were. Maybe we’re older. but that age gives you an edge in experience, knowing what you’re going through. Before maybe it was something new, and now you know exactly what you’re going through and how to deal with it.”
Cabal, who is now a father of two, further explained the benefits of the pair’s long-term partnership.
“You really know your partner. You really know he’s backing you up all the time,” he said. “You see a lot of teams splitting after one month, six months… They don’t work as a team, as a process.
“You really feel like you’ve got someone that’s got your back. That’s a very good thing. You play without pressure; you play free and work together for the same goals. It’s a process. It’s not blaming someone; it’s about setting goals and thinking about what you have to do to achieve them and believe in the process.”
The Colombians twice came within a few points of winning their 20th tour-level title this season, reaching the final at the ATP Masters 1000s in Monte Carlo and Madrid but falling just short in two Match Tie-breaks.
But with so much success already achieved, the duo are not primarily motivated by the prospect of adding to their trophy tally.
“We just take it day by day and try to improve daily on what you can improve, and you keep motivated that way,” explained Farah. “It’s not much about results. At the end, it’s your life and how you deal with your life.
“If you push yourself, if you want to keep finding that edge and keep improving yourself, your game, the mental aspects, how to compete better… that’s a motivation itself.
“If you do those things well, then you might win titles.”