Inside Mektic & Pavic's Dominance: 'No One Could Have Imagined This'
All eyes are on Novak Djokovic’s pursuit of the Grand Slam at this year’s US Open. But in the doubles draw, a team that has been equally as dominant this season is also pursuing glory at Flushing Meadows.
Croatians Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic debuted their partnership at the start of 2021, and they immediately clicked. In less than eight months, they have won nine tour-level titles, including triumphs at Wimbledon, the Tokyo Olympics and three ATP Masters 1000 events.
“I think no one could have imagined this. [But] we wouldn’t have done it if we didn’t think we could be the best,” Mektic told ATPTour.com. “We were expecting to play well, expecting to be able to win every match we play, but it’s been pretty amazing so far.”
Djokovic, who has lifted the trophy at the year’s first three majors, is 38-5 in 2021, giving him an 88.4 winning percentage. Mektic and Pavic are 56-7 for an 88.9 winning percentage. Four of their seven losses have come in a deciding set.
“We had some goals at the beginning of the year, but we’ve done all of them so far. My personal goal was that Wimbledon title that we managed to win this year,” Pavic said. “Now it’s just [about] finding some new goals all the time. You go match after match, you try to win as many matches as you can and win as many tournaments as you can.”
Pavic and Mektic won their first major title together at Wimbledon this year. Photo Credit: AFP/Getty Images.
In their debut season, Mektic and Pavic have already enjoyed one of the best doubles campaigns of the 21st century. Since 2000, only Bob Bryan and Mike Bryan have won at least 10 tour-level titles in a season. They did it four times, claiming a career-best 12 crowns in 2010. Besides Mektic and Pavic, the only other team to lift nine trophies in a season this millennium was Daniel Nestor and Nenad Zimonjic in 2009.
Without hindsight, becoming a pair was a risky move. Pavic and Bruno Soares formed the year-end No. 1 team last season, and Mektic and Wesley Koolhof won the 2020 Nitto ATP Finals together. Both duos were clearly successful, but the Croatians wanted to play together.
“I think it would have been just a matter of time if it didn’t happen at the beginning of this year. In the future, I’m pretty sure one day we would have eventually played together,” Pavic said. “It happened at the end of last year and now we’re here.”
Mektic and Pavic are from the same country, but they are not like star Colombian duo Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah, who have been close friends since childhood. Mektic, 32, and Pavic, 28, first got to know each other around 2017. Mektic knew Pavic was a great junior, but it was the latter who broke onto the Tour first.
How have they meshed so well on court? According to Pavic, they are like two puzzle pieces perfectly molded together.
“We just have a completely different way and style of play. I think he’s more of a solid guy, good overall in everything,” Pavic said. “I’m somebody who brings some weapons, a good serve, big strokes. I think that’s a good thing on the court. We are completely different types of players playing together and that’s something that’s obviously not easy for people. When you combine all of that together, it makes us a good team.”
Photo Credit: Peter Staples/ATP Tour
It certainly helps that they get along well off court. Whether playing UNO — the same card game Djokovic often plays with his team — or just chatting, Mektic and Pavic are both laid back.
“We’re both easygoing, I would say. It’s tough to get annoyed by each other,” Pavic said. “We’re following basketball and some things outside of tennis. We both like to follow sports. We have some of the same ideas, ways of thinking. We are also playing fantasy together.”
Pavic was referring to a fantasy basketball league they are both in.
“Don’t go there, because I don’t want to answer the question, ‘Are you winning or losing,’” Mektic said.
“How did you finish fantasy last year?” Pavic replied, cracking a smile.
Pavic is a big fan of retired Chicago Bulls player Toni Kukoc, also of Croatia. Mektic believes LeBron James will lead the Lo Angeles Lakers to the title next year.
“Five days before the draft, I have to take some time off from tennis,” Mektic joked.
Part of what makes the Croatians a special pair is that they get more animated about their fantasy basketball league than they do speaking about their on-court accomplishments. Mektic and Pavic, who are the top seeds in New York, walk on court, try to play their best tennis and allow the results to take care of themselves.
“We are ready for it. We are ready to lose,” Mektic said. “We just keep playing our games and try to keep our heads down and do what we do. If somebody’s better, if somebody deserves to win that day, we say ‘well done’ and we keep on going.”