Not a dou­bles fan? Fol­low this guide and you will be...

Six-time grand-slam cham­pion gives his in­sider’s ver­dict on this year’s Tour Fi­nals event

The Daily Telegraph - Sport - - Atp Tour Finals 2018 -

MEN’S DOU­BLES WORLD NO9 Marach and Pavic are the team to watch

The top seeds will be Oliver Marach and Mate Pavic. Which is fit­ting, be­cause it was an un­ex­pected out­ing at last year’s ATP Fi­nals – when they came in as al­ter­nates – that put them on a fan­tas­tic run of form.

They beat the Bryan broth­ers in their only match in Lon­don, and then won the next three events they played, in­clud­ing the Aus­tralian Open.

Like many of the best dou­bles teams, they have con­trast­ing styles. Oliver is 38, a late bloomer. He is Aus­trian, plays right-handed, and stays back be­hind his serve. Whereas Mate is Croa­t­ian and only 25 – a clas­sic leftie with a big swing­ing serve and great touch at the net.

Mike Bryan is back – and he has a new side­kick

It seems odd not to have the Bryan broth­ers play­ing to­gether in Lon­don this year, af­ter 10 straight ap­pear­ances at the ATP Fi­nals. But Bob needed a hip op­er­a­tion, so Mike has been free­lanc­ing with a few other guys.

He did not do too badly ei­ther – he and fel­low Amer­i­can Jack Sock came away with the Wim­ble­don and US Open ti­tles over the sum­mer.

Sock used to be known mainly for his sin­gles play but he has an in­cred­i­ble in­stinct for the dou­bles court. It can be very dif­fi­cult to vol­ley his fore­hand, es­pe­cially when he has time to take a full swing, be­cause he puts such heavy top­spin on it.

Con­trol the mid­dle of the court and you have a chance

The clas­sic thing with am­a­teur dou­bles play­ers is not to want to get beaten up the line, so they stand right out at the edge of the court. Whereas the area you re­ally want to con­trol is the mid­dle, be­cause that is where most of the balls go through.

So, a tip for club play­ers: you need to be pre­pared to look silly. Yes, your op­po­nent might beat you with a flash­ing re­turn win­ner that flies up the line. But the best way to ap­ply pres­sure is to cover the bread-and-but­ter cross-court re­turn.

OK, so no­body re­mem­bers the balls that the re­ceiv­ing team fails to put back in the court. But ev­ery one that dies in the net is worth the same as that scream­ing win­ner.

Chem­istry and guts make for a heady blend

It is amaz­ing how of­ten a dou­bles pair­ing will come through a hairy match at the start of an event – win­ning 12-10 in the de­cid­ing tie-break, for ex­am­ple – and then find wings.

I mean, a com­fort­able 6-3, 6-3 vic­tory is nice and all, but it is the ones you dig out from awk­ward po­si­tions that stay with you. Most im­por­tantly, they help you grow to­gether as a part­ner­ship.

Chem­istry is cru­cial in dou­bles. My part­ner, Bruno Soares, and I have a tac­ti­cal de­brief af­ter ev­ery match to keep ev­ery­thing run­ning smoothly. When some­one misses an easy shot, that is just sport, but if you are con­sis­tently strug­gling in a cer­tain area than that will be more of a con­cern.

Home in­ter­est should be on the up I am proud to have flown the flag for the past few years at the O2, but it has also been rather lonely, Brit-wise, on the dou­bles tour.

Apart from Dom In­glot, my reg­u­lar Davis Cup part­ner, there have not been too many guys from home to hang out with. Hap­pily, 2018 has seen a big shift on the rank­ings lad­der, with Bri­tish guys like Joe Sal­is­bury and Neal Skup­ski mak­ing a push.

The new rank­ings show seven of us in the top 65. So I should have more com­pany at Mas­ters events next year and we might even see some of them push­ing for a place at the O2 next year.

Top seeds: Oliver Marach (left) and Mate Pavic com­ple­ment each other

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