© Corinne Dubreuil/ATP Tour

Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic look to cap their banner debut season with the Nitto ATP Finals title.

Mektic & Pavic Seek 10th Title Of Season In Turin

Croatians aim to crown stunning season with 10th title in Nitto ATP Finals team debut

There’s no question that Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic are being seen as the team to beat at the Nitto ATP Finals in Turin, where they are pursuing their 10th title of 2021.

After a stellar season including winning Wimbledon, the Tokyo Olympics and three ATP Masters 1000 titles, the Croatian pairing have already secured the year-end No. 1 FedEx ATP Ranking – a first for Mektic: “Considering [the] season we had, I was really hoping we could crown it somehow with this achievement, so I’m very, very happy.”

Pavic has been part of year-end World No. 1 pairings twice before, with Oliver Marach and Bruno Soares, but he’s never known a start to the season like the one he had with Mektic. The duo won 56 of their first 61 matches in 2021.

“It definitely was not easy,” Pavic acknowledged. “At one point I think we had, I read somewhere, a 17-1 record in the super tie-breaks, so obviously a lot of those matches that we won were tough matches. We won it in super tie-breaks and that’s just a few points, a few balls here and there…

“I think the biggest thing was just to get to know each other on the court a little bit, because we never really played together an official match. We were lucky enough to win the first two tournaments, had a lot of matches even before Australia, so from the beginning we found a chemistry on the court and we played well and that was the thing.”

The chemistry that Mektic and Pavic found at the start of 2021 proved enduring. Over the following eight months, the nine ATP Tour-level titles they claimed spanned hard courts, clay and grass. They became the first all-Croatian pairing to win Wimbledon, then went on to become Olympic gold medallists in Tokyo. Both men came into this partnership as proven elite players, but not even they could have expected so much success so fast.

“To be honest I was hoping we can be the best,” Mektic admitted. “I knew we were going to be good, no reason not to [expect that], but I was hoping we could be the best.

“Of course, it’s tough to expect nine titles especially three Masters Series, Grand Slam, Olympics. Those are unbelievable titles, unbelievable results, it’s tough to expect something like this. But I was confident that we could be the best team in the world.”

Now Mektic and Pavic will end 2021 as the top doubles pairing in the world, no matter what happens at the Nitto ATP Finals. That doesn’t mean the Croatian duo aren’t still hungry for success at the year-end championships, which would be a first for them as a team. “Well, I’ve never won it, he did last year [with Wesley Koolhof],” Pavic said. “I would love to lift the trophy here obviously.”

With such an elite field in Turin, Mektic and Pavic aren’t taking anything for granted. “I don’t consider ourselves favourites compared to everybody else. Everyone who’s here is really, really good,” Mektic said.

“I think everybody knows here that they have a chance to go all the way, so I don’t think anybody’s super-pumped to beat us [more] than anybody else. So we’re going to look for our chances same as everybody else and we’re going to try to be the best every day.”