The Daily Telegraph
Salisbury defends his US Open doubles title at expense of Davis Cup partner Skupski
Joe Salisbury successfully defended his US Open men’s doubles title in New York last night, fighting off a challenge from fellow Briton Neal Skupski. Both Salisbury and Skupski will be on Davis Cup duty in Glasgow next week, and could well combine in what should be a formidable partnership.
But for this US Open final, Salisbury and Skupski found themselves on opposite sides of the court, teaming up with their regular tour partners – the United States’ Rajeev Ram for Salisbury and Wesley Koolhof from the Netherlands for Skupski.
Both Britons came on to the court wearing acknowledgements of the period of mourning back home: a black armband for Salisbury and a black ribbon for Skupski.
On a day when most sporting activity was cancelled in the UK, they participated in an entertaining contest, which ran for 1hr 56min before Salisbury, from Putney, put away an overhead to conclude a 7-6, 7-5 victory.
The match must have been a difficult one for the Lawn Tennis Association’s doubles guru Louis Cayer to watch, given that he had a protégé on each side.
But Cayer’s invaluable contribution can be seen in the fact that Salisbury remains at the top of the world rankings, while Skupski – who would have supplanted him with a victory here – stands at No3. Despite the collegiate spirit that Salisbury and Skupski will no doubt exhibit next week, the match started with a moment of aggression as Skupski’s first volley buried itself in Ram’s abdomen on the opening point. Had Ram been a less-sportsmanlike fellow, he might have reacted more strongly, but he simply turned away and got on with the job.
For the rest of the match, Skupski and Koolhof were the slightly flashier pair, going for more and coming up with some of the more memorable shot-making. But the defending champions were simply steadier when it mattered.
The stats show how tight the contest was, with 83 points claimed by Salisbury’s team as against 78 by Skupski’s. The most critical phase was the first-set tie-break, and specifically the moment when Koolhof – who had been the best player on the court during that opening set – came to serve at 4-3 up. He went to his opponents’ backhands on both service points, and both times the ball came flashing back past him for a clean winner.
From a mini-break up, Skupski and Koolhof were suddenly a mini-break down, and Salisbury put away a routine volley to claim that tie-break 7-4.
Skupski belatedly found his return of serve in the second set to help his team score the first break of the match, taking down Ram’s serve – which is generated by a lovely Sampras-esque action – with a barrage of confident forehand strikes.
But the challengers could not hold on to their advantage as Skupski was broken in the next game.
The pressure built for the remainder of the set, and even though Koolhof had a point to bring up another tie-beak, he was confounded by more pinpoint returns. As Skupski put it afterwards, “We came up against a great team, they played some unbelievable tennis. Thanks for coming out, this was the best crowd I’ve played in front of.”
Salisbury had the easier task, as postmatch speeches go. “It is pretty crazy,” he said. “I can’t quite believe it that we are standing here again. It is so, so special to be playing in this incredible stadium in front of all of you. To win this twice in a row is amazing. It was a really tough match today and I think we will have lots of battles in the future.”
In the men’s singles, Casper Ruud reached his second grand slam final of the year – he lost in France – by beating Karen Khachanov 7-6, 6-2, 5-7, 6-2.