The new season has just started for Juan Sebastián Cabal and Robert Farah and it already feels like change is afoot. For the first time in almost a decade, the Colombians are no longer coached by the South African Jeff Coetzee, who helped them win their first two Grand Slam titles (Wimbledon and the US Open in 2019) and climb to No. 1 in the ATP Doubles Rankings.
But what has not changed is the team’s ambitions. Under the watchful eye of the Argentine Mariano Hood, former World No. 20 in doubles (2003), Cabal and Farah have come out all guns blazing in 2022, something they made clear in this interview with ATPTour.com before their first clash at the Australian Open against the South African Lloyd Harris and Australian Alexei Popyrin.
What were the best and worst parts of 2021?
Juan Sebastián Cabal: The good part was that in such tough circumstances because of COVID-19, we managed to remain among the best. And although we had fitness problems, we were always fighting for the tournaments. We were satisfied. The bad thing was that it was very mentally and physically difficult. Hopefully this year will be different.
Robert Farah: The best thing was that we won three ATP 500s, tournaments that you dream of winning when you’re young. They were really big events: Dubai, Barcelona and Vienna. Also, we capped off a great year at the [Nitto ATP] Finals, where we were playing well. The bad part was the pandemic, that was really hard mentally. Often we were unable to return to our country, as Colombia was on the red list, that made the year very difficult.
What are the goals for 2022?
Cabal: In the longterm, to be at the [Nitto ATP] Finals, to win Grand Slams, fight for the No. 1 spot… Our idea is to set up our schedule to fight for the big tournaments and the final rounds.
Farah: It’ll also be important to look after our health in order to be competing at 100 per cent. To go out onto court and enjoy ourselves. If we can do that, we can win a lot of matches and make ourselves dangerous again at all tournaments.
What will the new team look like for the season?
Cabal: The fitness coach is the same: Jefry Vergara, from Colombia. And the coach is Mariano Hood. In weeks when he can’t, we’ll have people we trust. We’ll also have two Argentine physios, Diego and Andrés, who will alternate weeks.
Why Mariano Hood as your new coach?
Farah: We know Mariano really well, we’ve always known that he’s a great coach. When we left things with Jeff, who we’d been with for eight years and to whom we owe so much because he had a great impact on our career, Mariano was one of the first people who came to mind and I think we’re happy to start a new chapter with him.
What do you hope for from your new coach?
Cabal: We felt that our time with the last coach had come to an end. Everything ended on good terms. He’s a great friend of ours. Now we’re hoping for a new outlook on things. We already know how good we are, what we can achieve. But maybe with a different perspective and a fresh start we can do more, fight for something new.
Juan, you’re 35, and Robert you’re 34, do you feel like veterans or still feel young?
Cabal: We’re not young. Of course, every year that passes takes its toll. But it also depends on your body, and the motivation, how much you want to play. There is life after tennis, but for now we’re still setting ourselves goals and working hard. We’re nearly veterans but our desire is still the same.
How much longer can you play elite tennis?
Farah: I’d like about three more years in elite tennis. From there, personally, I’d like to start new things in my life. But for now we’re really focussed on this season and the following ones. Hopefully we can stay healthy for the final years of our career and perform as well as possible.
You have 70 Grand Slam wins together. Are you ready to break 80 this season?
Cabal: I think so. If we do things well, we can break that barrier and maybe get even more wins. We’re working hard for that.
Where do you think you’ll win your 20th title as a team?
Cabal: We’re not losing sleep over that. The only thing is to give our all because then the results will follow. Sooner or later. Hopefully it will be in Australia.
Farah: I’d like it to come in Australia, that’s the goal.
Who are the opponents to beat this season?
Cabal: The Frenchmen [Nicolas Mahut and Pierre Hugues Herbert], the Croatians [Mate] Pavic and [Nikola] Mektic, [Ram] Salisbury and [Rajeev] Ram, [Marcel] Granollers and [Horacio] Zeballos. Together with them, we’re the most consistent, the ones that are in the fight for the titles and finals.
Farah: It won’t change that much compared to last year. Also, there is a new pair, John Peers and Filip Polasek who finished last year very well. In 2022, they’ll be dangerous. The Belgians [Sander Gille and Joran Vliegen] could be a danger, they’re playing better every year. Bruno [Soares] and Jamie [Murray]. But we know that we have the game to face any of them. If we’re focussed and enjoying the Tour, we can be very dangerous.