Fast-Rising Koolhof/Skupski Feature In Standout Doubles Teams Of 2022
ATPTour.com’s annual season-in-review series looks back at 2022’s best matches, biggest upsets, most dramatic comebacks and more.
From huge serving and defiant defence to rapid reactions and razor-sharp volleying, the ATP Tour’s doubles action offers non-stop intensity and excitement to fans around the world.
Despite playing a format where each point, game, set and match can be decided by the finest of margins, some pairs have found a way to consistently rise above the rest in 2022. Today, ATPTour.com looks at some of those best-performing teams from an action-packed season on the doubles circuit.
Koolhof/Skupski Shine In First Year Together
Seven tour-level titles, a 56-19 match record, and the year-end No. 1 doubles crown. As first seasons playing together go, Wesley Koolhof and Neal Skupski could hardly have asked for more.
“We win together, lose together, share moments on and off court together… In January the click was there from the beginning,” said Koolhof after the pair were crowned ATP Doubles No. 1 presented by Pepperstone at the Nitto ATP Finals in November. Their achievements in a whirlwind first year as a team included three ATP Masters 1000 titles, won in Madrid, Montreal and Paris.
Even changes in surface or conditions did little to slow the Koolhof/Skupski winning machine. Their overall tally of seven tour-level titles included triumphs on outdoor hard courts, clay, grass and indoor hard. They also performed strongly at the majors, reaching the quarter-finals at three of the four Grand Slams, including a championship match run at the US Open.
Those stellar performances as a team propelled both Koolhof and Skupski to the top of the Pepperstone ATP Doubles Rankings. Dutchman Koolhof hit top spot on 7 November following the duo’s Rolex Paris Masters triumph, before Great Britain’s Skupski joined the Dutchman as joint World No. 1 a week later.
Ram/Salisbury Built For The Big Stage
Few teams more consistently brought their best to big occasions in 2022 than Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury.
The American-British pair lifted its second and third ATP Masters 1000 titles with high-class displays at the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters (Ram and Salisbury’s first tour-level title together on clay) and at the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati. They backed up those successes by becoming just the second team to successfully defend the men’s doubles title at the US Open, after legendary ATP Tour duo Todd Woodbridge and Mark Woodforde.
“Those [Masters 1000s and Grand Slams] are the ones we want to win, the big ones,” Salisbury told ATPTour.com prior to November’s Nitto ATP Finals. “Even if it’s only a couple a year, those are the ones we are going for. I think it’s good we perform our best at those bigger tournaments."
The pair successfully continued that trend with its fourth and final tour-level of the year in Turin, where it went undefeated to claim its maiden Nitto ATP Finals crown in style and finish a standout year on Tour with a 37-14 record.
Just like Koolhof and Skupski, both Ram and Salisbury rose to become No. 1 in the Pepperstone ATP Doubles Rankings for the first time in 2022. Salisbury held the position from April until the beginning of October, when his partner Ram took over top spot until Koolhof’s ascent five weeks later.
‘Special Ks’ Light Up Doubles Circuit
“We definitely don’t practise doubles at all,” said Nick Kyrgios prior to making his Nitto ATP Finals debut alongside Thanasi Kokkinakis in November. “We don’t do any doubles drills or anything like that. Maybe it can be an advantage, maybe a disadvantage at times, because we only do our own thing.”
One of the most uniquely gifted pairs to grace the doubles court in 2022, Kokkinakis and Kyrgios began their season in style by charging to victory at their home Grand Slam, the Australian Open. A semi-final run in Miami and a second tour-level title as a team in Atlanta followed as the pair racked up a 20-7 record across the eight tournaments it played.
Yet those results only tell half the tale of Kokkinakis and Kyrgios’ time on the doubles court. The pair revelled in putting on a show for fans, who were engrossed by its exciting blend of big-serving, outrageous shotmaking, and joyous celebrating. The bigger and louder the atmosphere, the more energised the duo seemed to become.
Despite playing relatively few tournaments across the season, Kokkinakis and Kyrgios qualified for their Nitto ATP Finals debut in Turin as one of the eight best-performing teams on Tour. Kokkinakis believes it was a reward for simply sticking to their natural game.
“I think we bring our singles strengths onto the doubles court,” he said in Italy. “If we try and be doubles players instead of playing our [natural] game, it’s not going to come out too good for us... I think we are going to continue to play singles on a doubles court.”
History-Making Arevalo/Rojer's Big Impact
An 11-match winning streak sparked first-year pairing Marcelo Arevalo and Jean-Julien Rojer’s 2022 season into life. The duo lifted back-to-back ATP Tour titles in Dallas and Delray Beach in February before a championship match run in Acapulco to announce its arrival as one of the most complete teams on the circuit.
That early-season form laid the foundation for a stellar year for the Salvadoran-Dutch pair, which went on to clinch its maiden Grand Slam title at Roland Garros and a fourth tour-level title of the year on the indoor hard courts of Stockholm in October.
Rojer & Arevalo lift the trophy at Roland Garros. Photo Credit: Adam Pretty/Getty Images
Their biggest title triumph of the year almost never happened. Arevalo and Rojer saved three championship points against Ivan Dodig and Austin Krajicek in the Roland Garros final before completing a 6-7(4), 7-6(5), 6-3 win that etched both their names in the history books — Arevalo as the first Grand Slam men’s doubles champion from Central America, and Rojer as the oldest Grand Slam men’s doubles champion in the Open Era.
“I really want to thank my partner," the then-40-year-old Rojer said after the dramatic victory in Paris. "We spent a lot of time living and training in Miami and we decided to play together. I know this kid has a big heart. He showed it today and I thank him. I am glad he trusts me, and I am so happy and proud of this moment here.”
Mektic/Pavic Masterclass Continues
Having a successful debut season together is one thing. Backing it up is another.
Yet Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic had no problems doing just that this year. The 2021 year-end No. 1 pair in the Pepperstone ATP Doubles Teams Rankings added five ATP Tour titles to their tally with some typically classy performances across a range of surfaces.
Clay-court crowns in Rome (their fourth together at ATP Masters 1000 level) and Geneva were followed by victories on grass at The Queen’s Club and Eastbourne during a red-hot run that saw the Croatians win 24 of 26 matches across six tournaments in May and June. That included a run to the final at Wimbledon, where they fell just one win short of completing an incredible defence of their 2021 Wimbledon title despite Pavic playing with a fractured wrist from the first set of their semi-final.
"We gave our best and we gave it a fight,” said Pavic after Matthew Ebden and Max Purcell prevailed 7-6(5), 6-7(3), 4-6, 6-4, 7-6(10-2) in a marathon championship match at SW19. “I think we can be very proud of ourselves for those two matches."
There was to be no stopping Mektic and Pavic in October at the Astana Open, however, where they lifted their fifth and final title of the season at the indoor ATP 500 event. The pair then rounded out an impressive 51-21 season with a run to the championship match at the Nitto ATP Finals in Turin, their 21st tour-level final appearance in just two seasons together.
Read more from our Best Of 2022 series