Briton Joe Salisbury today climbed to No. 1 in the ATP Doubles Rankings, passing Croatian Mate Pavic for the top spot. The 29-year-old is the third man from Great Britain to reach ATP World No. 1, joining Andy Murray (singles) and Jamie Murray (doubles).
Salisbury has crafted a highly successful partnership with Rajeev Ram since the start of 2019, winning two Grand Slam championships and an ATP Masters 1000 crown. Now the eight-time tour-level titlist has earned the ultimate doubles achievement.
"It's always been a goal," Salisbury told ATPTour.com of reaching World No. 1. "I think we've been focussed more on winning tournaments as a team, winning Masters 1000s, winning Grand Slams. But obviously it's amazing for us that we're going to be going into tournaments as the No. 1 seed. To have the No. 1 ranking is amazing. It's a special moment."
Photo Credit: Peter Staples/ATP Tour
It has been a long time coming for Salisbury, who was born into a tennis family. His parents Matthew and Carolyn played the sport, as did his brother Chris and sister Katie. It did not take Salisbury long to become involved, too.
“I wanted to hit the ball whenever I could,” Salisbury said. “I remember I actually used to play with my brother a bit in the garden. We had a small garden and we put up a makeshift net, put deck chairs up as the net, played mini tennis in the garden when we were quite young. I just loved playing.”
The Briton began competing at a high level early on, playing under-10 international tournaments. Salisbury would travel around Europe and try to hone his craft.
“I guess at that point you always dream of playing the biggest tournaments. From that age, I wanted to be a professional tennis player,” Salisbury said. “But at that point you’re not really thinking about it too much. You’re just enjoying competing and looking up to the top pros and wanting to play those tournaments.”
His journey to the top hit a snag in his late teens. At 15, he contracted mononucleosis, which lingered for about a year. Separately, Salisbury is now 6’3”, but was “pretty small” when he was younger. A one-foot growth spurt led to other injuries, including a stress fracture in his lower back. From the ages of 16 to 18, he barely competed.
Paul Goebel, the head coach of men’s tennis at the University of Memphis, was in London and had a one-hour meeting with Salisbury at the National Tennis Centre following an introduction from Paul Hutchins.
“Honestly, within the hour of talking to [Joe], I could tell he had the drive, passion and belief in himself that could take him to really big things,” Goebel said.
Salisbury decided to attend Memphis, where he was a student-athlete for four years. He ascended to No. 3 in the country in doubles alongside David O’Hare, who has coached him on Tour. But perhaps the Briton’s most memorable moment came in 2014, during his senior season. Salisbury and O’Hare received a wild card into the Memphis ATP 250 event, in which the teammates played doubles legends Bob Bryan and Mike Bryan (see image below). The American twins won 6-4, 6-3.
“I remember the excitement leading up to that, that we were going to play those guys. We ended up having a good match, fairly close,” Salisbury said. “I just remember the feeling of being out there and absolutely loved it. One of my favourite matches that I’ve played, even though we lost. Having the home support and all our teammates there as well [was great].”
Photo Credit: Alex Smith
Salisbury debated during his time at Memphis whether he would turn professional after college. But ultimately, there was nothing else that drove him as much as tennis did. That was always his main passion. Once on Tour, the Briton’s big breakthrough came in 2018. As the World No. 80, he advanced to the Wimbledon semi-finals with 2012 champion Frederik Nielsen. Salisbury has not looked back since, and from the start of 2019 he has competed alongside Ram.
During the stretch that has made Salisbury the 56th man to reach doubles World No. 1, the tandem in 2021 won the US Open, the ATP Masters 1000 event in Canada and advanced to the championship match at the Nitto ATP Finals.
"I feel like this ranking is indicative of Joe's perseverance, work ethic, and attitude to always strive to improve. He truly deserves it," Ram told ATPTour.com. "It's been amazing to share the court with him since 2019 and I look forward to more great experiences in the future."
Additionally, Salisbury lifted an ATP 250 trophy last season with Neal Skupski, who was quick to praise his friend.
“It’s an amazing achievement for him. He’s a good friend, I’m so happy for him to finally break to the No. 1 position. It just shows that work on and off the court does pay off in the end. He really deserves to be at the top,” Skupski said. “He’s got a great partnership with Rajeev Ram.
“Everyone’s goal is to get to No. 1. When you get there, everyone is looking up to you. The hardest thing now is to try and stay there. I’m sure Joe knows it’s not over and he’s going to put the work in. But it’s great to see a good friend get what he deserves.”
It is difficult to fathom that just a decade ago, Salisbury was not completely sure what his future held, and if professional tennis would be a part of it.
“I guess the time off made me kind of question if I wanted to do it or could do it. That’s why I went to college, and there I wasn’t sure if I wanted to keep playing after,” Salisbury said. “But part of me always wanted to see where I could get to.”
Now Salisbury is the No. 1 doubles player in the world.