Monroe Riding High On Late Doubles Breakthrough
The American is playing his best tennis after 13 years on tour
It’s not unfamiliar to see players take a few years to find their footing on the ATP World Tour, but Nicholas Monroe recently achieved a career milestone at age 34.
The American, who celebrates his 35th birthday this week at the Fayez Sarofim & Co. U.S. Men’s Clay Court Championship, reached his first ATP World Tour Masters 1000 final this year in Miami. Paired with Jack Sock, they defeated several top teams en route to the championship match, including top seeds Henri Kontinen and John Peers, and Bob Bryan and Mike Bryan.
“Jack is probably the best doubles player in the world right now, in my opinion, so that was always going to be a lot of fun. We gel well with each other and have done our last two pre-seasons together in Kansas City. I went to high school there and my dad used to work at the same tennis academy as his old coach, Mike Wolf,” said Monroe. “We have that Midwest connection even though I’m 10 years older than him. He’s like my little brother out there, so we have a good time together.”
Monroe turned pro in 2004 after an outstanding college career at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He spent several years competing mainly in Futures events and the ATP Challenger Tour before turning his attention to doubles in his 30s. He immediately began reaping the rewards, winning his first ATP World Tour doubles title in Bastad in 2013 (w/Stadler) and becoming a regular fixture in the world’s biggest events.
“After about eight years, I reached about No. 250 [in the Emirates ATP Rankings] in singles and had always done pretty well in doubles, so I decided to focus solely on that about four years ago. I was lucky to start out with a great partner in Simon Stadler and then went from there,” said Monroe. “It was like a dream come true to play those [ATP World Tour] Masters 1000 events and Grand Slams that you grow up watching and after having a couple of wins in them, you feel like you belong.”
For a player whose exposure to clay as a junior was admittedly limited, he’s ultimately excelled on it and captured two of his three ATP World Tour doubles titles on the red dirt. But Monroe said his success on clay came due to being forced to learn how to love it.
“I didn’t play on clay very much growing up. We have green clay in the U.S., but on red clay, I didn’t really know what to do at first. But when I started playing with Stadler, he solely wanted to play on clay, so I had to start getting used to it,” said Monroe. “Eventually I stopped overthinking the movement on the surface, started focusing more on our game plan out there and ended up having fun on it.”
Largely due to his success in the first quarter of 2017, which also includes three semi-final finishes in Chennai, Auckland and Quito (all w/Sitak), Monroe is currently at a career-high Emirates ATP Doubles Ranking of No. 39. As he moves into a part of the season he’s enjoyed success in before, the American said his goals remain even loftier.
“I still want to be Top 10 and win a Grand Slam. I’m 34, but you see guys who are still pushing for Grand Slams in their late 30s and even in their 40s, so I feel like I still have plenty of time,” said Monroe. “As long as I can stay healthy and able to keep working hard, that’s what I’m going to keep pushing for.”