Learn The Secret To Kubot & Melo's Success
Lukasz Kubot and Marcelo Melo have won 10 tour-level titles since beginning their full-time partnership in 2017. And not only have they qualified for the Nitto ATP Finals in both of their seasons together, but they are currently the highest-ranked ATP Doubles Team.
The secret to their success is not a specific skill, but that they are not satisfied.
“I think the most important thing is to keep improving and to keep changing. New teams are playing, they’re playing differently. We cannot be playing the same way always because they know what we’re going to do,” Melo told ATPTour.com. “I think the key is to keep improving and changing and looking what other teams are doing for us to keep doing good results.”
This is the Polish-Brazilian duo’s third full season as a team, but they showed signs of what they are capable of even before that. In 2015, they competed together for the first time in Vienna, while Melo was still partnering Ivan Dodig. They won that tournament.
The following year, Melo and Dodig decided to end their five-year partnership, so Melo approached Kubot about playing some tournaments together late in 2016 to see how it would go. Melo and Kubot triumphed in Vienna again, making the decision to become a full-time team easy.
But the wins did not pile up as easily early in 2017, as they lost five of their first nine matches that season, winning multiple matches at an event just once through five tournaments.
“Normally when you start a team you want to play a lot together. You put a lot of pressure on yourselves and want the results tomorrow. Sometimes it’s not like that,” Melo said. “You need to get used to how each other plays and we started not so great, but after two, three months we started playing better together, playing as a team.”
Kubot and Melo won six tour-level titles that year, including three ATP Masters 1000 trophies and a Wimbledon victory. They finished the season as the year-end No. 1 ATP Doubles Team. But even after qualifying for the season finale at The O2 again last year, they are still looking for more ways to improve.
“We know our patterns and our opponents know our patterns, so we still look forward to improving our games every day and trying to be better,” Kubot told ATPTour.com. “Every time we sit down, we talk and we always look for ways to improve and look for something new we can add to our games.”
Melo noted that with the increasing presence of singles players competing on the doubles court, it can be tough given that there is plenty of film and statistics on them, and not always as much on their opponents. But they continue to adapt, reaching at least the semi-finals at three of this year’s first five Masters 1000 tournaments.
“I think we play different, me and Kubot. I have one way to play, Kubot has another way. So we are always changing. We don’t play the same way. We can change a lot during the matches,” Melo said. “We play very good Match Tie-breaks normally and in doubles today it’s very important to play very good Match Tie-breaks.”
Kubot and Melo hold a 41-17 record in Match Tie-breaks during their partnership, a winning rate of more than 70 per cent. After splitting sets, the Match Tie-break could go either team's way, given it's the first pair to win 10 points. But Melo doesn't see it that way.
“I don’t agree that it’s a coin flip. I think no-Ad it is, but not Match Tie-breaks. Those are 10 points, so if sometimes you start down 4/1, 5/2, you still have a chance to come back,” Melo said. “You have to be always mentally strong to play Match Tie-breaks and even if you are up, you need to finish and if you are down, you have a chance to come back.”
It doesn’t hurt that they enjoy the pressure of those big moments, and they are never afraid to be aggressive when it counts the most.
“I think Marcelo has, for me, maybe, the best reactions of all the players at the moment on Tour, so his reactions are very good, he’s very quick at the net. He has very good volleys,” Kubot said. “He’s a player who’s made for the big shots, so he likes when there is more pressure on the court because he likes to take the responsibility on his shoulders.”
Kubot and Melo are the top seeds at this week’s NOVENTI OPEN, where they will try to win a third consecutive title. The top seeds begin their campaign against Dutchmen Wesley Koolhof and Matwe Middelkoop.