Sports Gazette

by sports journalism students at St Mary's University, London

Joe Salisbury becomes the first Briton ever to reach ATP Finals doubles final

Posted on 2 December 2021 by Kristina Thiedeitz

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Game, set, and match. Turin’s tennis fans rose from their seats. Applauding not only the winners of the ATP Finals doubles title but also the beaten British-American pair of Joe Salisbury and Rajeev Ram.

Salisbury first picked up a tennis racket at three and has remained true to the sport ever since. He successfully played college tennis at the University of Memphis, winning 97 doubles matches, and turned pro in 2014.

As a native Londoner, the 29-year-old dreams of winning Wimbledon. This year he almost achieved that goal, but failed in the semi-finals to Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic in a thrilling match. His pain increased when he lost to Neal Skupski and Desirae Krawczyk in the mixed doubles final.

Nevertheless, he has had an outstanding 2021 season with victories at the San Diego Open and Canada Masters. But most impressive were his US Open triumphs in both the men’s doubles with Ram and the mixed doubles with his Wimbledon final opponent, Krawczyk.

As a result of their successes, Salisbury and Ram qualified for the ATP doubles Finals for the third year in a row. In 2019, they lost in the preliminary round. Last year, they lost in the semi-finals. But with a strong season behind them, they set their sights on going one step further this time.

The British-American pair started strong winning all three of their group matches advancing to the semi-finals. Here they met the number 1 ranked duo, Mektic, and Pavic. In an exciting match characterised by their fighting spirit, Salisbury and Ram prevailed 4-6 7-6 10-4.

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The win meant Salisbury had become the first Briton to make the ATP Finals doubles final. After the match, Salisbury said: “It is a big, big achievement, obviously really, really proud of it, but I don’t want to be just a Brit getting to the final, I want to be the one winning it.”

In the final, their opponents were Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut. Although they lost to the British-American duo in their group match, they showed no discouragement. Throughout the game, the pair from France played to their strengths and edged past Salisbury and Ram 6-4 7-6 to take the Finals title.

This year was also successful for the French, who won their home Grand Slam in Paris. The two were perfectly attuned to each other and reached a deep understanding on the court.

Despite his age at 39 years old, Mahut does not plan to quit and wants to attack again next year. When asked about the Frenchman’s age, his partner Herbert said: “He is Benjamin Button. He is going the other way. He is just playing better and better. It is an honour to be on the court with him.” Mahut added: “I hope we can enjoy a few more years together on court.”

Even though it did not work out for Salisbury and his partner Ram this year, they should be encouraged. By getting to the final in Turin, the pair have taken another step forward from their preliminary round exit in 2019 and semi-final appearance in 2020. In theory, it should be their turn to win the title in 2022.