Joe Salisbury tones down celebrations after retaining US men’s doubles title at ‘sad time’

Joe Salisbury poses with his doubles partner Rajeev Ram (right) after the match - USA TODAY SPORTS
Joe Salisbury poses with his doubles partner Rajeev Ram (right) after the match - USA TODAY SPORTS

After successfully defending his US Open crown in New York, Britain’s leading doubles player Joe Salisbury admitted that he had toned down his celebrations as a mark of respect during this period of national mourning.

Always an understated character, Salisbury sat quietly on his chair after he and his American partner Rajeev Ram had become the first men to win back-to-back US Open doubles titles since the Australian pairing of Mark Woodforde and Todd Woodbridge in the mid 1990s.

“It didn’t feel appropriate to be overly celebrating or at least showing that too much,” Salisbury told reporters afterwards, “because obviously everybody back home and around the world is in mourning.

“It definitely feels a bit strange to be in this situation,” added Salisbury. “Obviously we are very happy with the success that we have had, but, yeah, it’s a sad time at the same moment.”

There was always going to be a British winner in this final, as Salisbury and Ram’s opponents were Liverpool’s Neal Skupski and the Netherlands’ Wesley Koolhof.

Had the result 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 who controlled the big points better, running out as 7-6, 7-5 winners in 1hr 56min.

Both Britons came onto the court wearing acknowledgements of the sad news from home: a black armband for Salisbury and a black ribbon for Skupski. “I saw a lot of [the news bulletins] yesterday,” said Skupski after the match, “because it was on the TV next to us when Joe was playing.

“It was a bit strange, us playing when the country is in mourning. [The Queen] was a great servant and we will remember that she was an incredible woman.”

Ram and Salisbury go to bump fists after winning a point - GETTY IMAGES
Ram and Salisbury go to bump fists after winning a point - GETTY IMAGES

Salisbury and Skupski may well find themselves combining next week in Glasgow, where Great Britain will be trying to qualify for November’s Davis Cup finals. But on Friday they were adversaries, and Skupski immediately made his presence felt by burying his very first volley in Ram’s abdomen from short range.

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,  coming up with 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 probably 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 critical tie-break by a 7-4 margin.

“I feel like on my side I didn’t perform at my best,” said Skupski, whose return was off-colour 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 also have been at the top of the rankings for some time now.”

For Salisbury, the feeling was “very sweet, especially [after] how we have ended the last couple of slams. We had match points in the French Open and Wimbledon, and lost both those matches... to be sitting here after coming back from tough situations in some matches makes it extra special.”