After successfully defending his US Open crown in New York, Britain’s top doubles player Joe Salisbury admitted he had toned down his celebrations as a mark of respect during this period of national mourning.
Always an underrated character, Salisbury sat quietly in his chair after he and American partner Rajeev Ram became the first men to win back-to-back US Open doubles titles since the pair of Mark Woodford and Todd Woodbridge in Australia in the mid-1990s .
“It didn’t feel right to celebrate too much or at least show it too much,” Salisbury told reporters afterward, “because obviously everyone at home and around the world is grieving.
“It’s definitely a little weird to be in this situation,” Salisbury added. “Obviously we’re very happy with the success we’ve had, but, yes, it’s a sad moment at the same time.”
There was always going to be a British winner in this final as Salisbury and Ram’s opponents were Liverpool’s Neil Skupski and Holland’s Wesley Koolhoff.
If the result had gone the other way, then Skupski would have become the new world No. 1, knocking Salisbury off the lofty perch he has occupied since early April. But it was the more experienced team that controlled the big points better, winning 7-6, 7-5 in 1 hour 56 minutes.
Both Britons entered the field wearing the recognition of the sad news from home: a black armband for Salisbury and a black armband for Skupski. “I saw a lot [the news bulletins] yesterday,” Skupski said after the game, “because he was on the TV next to us when Joe was playing.
“It was a bit strange that we were playing when the country is in mourning. [The Queen] she was a great servant and will be remembered as an incredible woman.”
Salisbury and Skupski may well meet next week in Glasgow, where Great Britain will try to qualify for November’s Davis Cup finals. But on Friday they were opponents and Skupski immediately made his presence felt by burying his first volley into the Ram’s belly from close range.
Had Ram been less athletic, he might have reacted more strongly, but he simply withdrew and got on with the job. For the rest of the match, Skupski and Koolhof were the slightly flashier pair, producing the more memorable shot. But the defending champions were simply more consistent when it mattered.
The stats show how close the game was, with 83 points claimed by Salisbury’s team to Skupski’s 78. The most crucial phase was perhaps the tiebreak of the first set, and specifically the moment when Koolhof – who was the best player on the court during this first set – got to serve at 4-3.
He went to his opponents backhands on both serves and both times the ball sailed past him for a clear winner. From a mini-break, Skupski and Koolhof were suddenly a mini-break down and Salisbury saved a routine volley to claim that crucial tie-break by a margin of 7-4.
“I feel like on my side I didn’t perform at my best,” said Skupski, whose comeback was lackluster in the early stages. “But Joe and Rajeev, they play well and they don’t let you play well. That’s why they’re the champions and they’ve also been at the top of the rankings for quite some time.”
For Salisbury, the feeling was “very sweet, especially [after] how we finished the last two slams. We had match points at the French Open and Wimbledon and lost both of those matches … to be sitting here after coming back from tough situations in a couple of matches makes it extra special.”