Ram And Salisbury Successfully Defend ATP Finals Doubles Crown

Rajeev Ram and Moe Salisbury (photo: Giampiero Sposito/FITP)

TURIN/WASHINGTON, November 19, 2023 (by Michael Dickens)

With the Year-End No. 1 in the Pepperstone ATP Doubles Team Rankings on the line Sunday afternoon, No. 5 seeds Marcel Granollers of Spain and Horacio Zeballos of Argentina took on reigning Nitto ATP Finals champions No. 6 Rajeev Ram of the United States and Joe Salisbury of Great Britain, who were trying to write a bit of history, too.

For Granollers and Zeballos, a victory in the Turin title match meant they would pass the current No. 1 team, Ivan Dodig of Croatia and Austin Krajicek of the United States, and finish Year-End No. 1 for the first time. Meanwhile, for Ram and Salisbury, they were attempting to become the first back-to-back Nitto ATP Finals champions since 2017.

With two of the best doubles teams in tennis playing on a fast, indoor court, anything was possible.

As it happened, Ram and Salisbury, who became the first team to reach three consecutive year-end championships since Australians Todd Woodbridge and Mark Woodforde from 1992-94, beat Granollers and Zeballos, 6-3, 6-4, in 68 minutes. Their solid performance enabled them to become the first back-to-back champions since Finland’s Henri Kontinen and John Peers of Australia in 2016-17.

The American/English duo got the first break of the match as Ram hit a forehand winner on a deciding point to break their opponents for a 3-1 lead. They consolidated the break on Ram’s serve for a 4-1 advantage and, soon, closed out the set 33-minute opening set 6-3 after Salisbury hit an overhead smash winner. Ram and Salisbury dropped just two points on their first serve while combining to hit four aces and 10 overall winners against Granollers and Zeballos. Only four points separated the two teams.

Then, at 3-all on the second set, Ram and Salisbury gained their second break of serve of the final. Salisbury poached a sixth-shot backhand winner at the net that eluded Granollers and gave the American/British team a 4-3 lead. They consolidated the break to move ahead 5-3, needing to win just one more game to successfully defend their year-end title.

Finally, with Ram serving for the title at 5-4, it was lights out as Zeballos hit a weak service return long on championship point, and the celebration was on for Ram and Salisbury. The victory was their 10th straight in Turin dating back to the start of their 2022 championship run.

Ram and Salisbury combined to hit eight aces and won 89 percent of their first-serve points. They saved the only break point they faced and outpointed Granollers and Zeballlos 52-45.

“I don’t know what to say, to be honest. We love this place,” Ram said in an on-court interview before the trophy ceremony. “This is the biggest tournament we play all year on the ATP calendar all year. To win it twice in a row is something I never would have thought about. I’m just so proud of us.”

Since the start of the US Open, Ram and Salisbury won 18 of 20 tour-level matches. They garnered their third straight US Open title, lifted the trophy at thr Erste Bank Open in Vienna and reached the semifinals in Paris. They finished the season on a five-match winning streak and with a 37-18 win-loss record. Granollers and Zeballos ended 38-18.

“I think we got better throughout the week,” Salisbury added. “I think this was our best match, along with the semifinal yesterday. I think we’ve served well and not got broken many times. We did that really well and managed to take the few chances we had today. I think we got a little bit of luck as well, but it seems like we get it in this place.”

Dodig and Krajicek will finish at No. 1, while Ram and Salisbury move up to third behind India’s Rohan Bopanna and Matthew Ebden of Australia. Granollers and Zeballos finished in fifth behind Wesley Koolhof of the Netherlands and Neal Skupski of Great Britain.

By the numbers

Ivan Dodig of Croatia and Austin Krajicek of the United States finished 2023 as the Year-End No. 1 doubles team with 6,530 points. They finished ahead of India’s Rohan Bopanna and Matthew Ebden of Australia (6,390 points) and Rajeev Ram of the United States and Joe Salisbury of Great Britain climbed to third (6,322 points) after winning the Nitto ATP Finals title.

“Quotable …”

“We definitely didn’t have a great first half of the year, and sometimes you need a bit of a shock, some tough times, to kind of kick you into gear and get you back to knowing what you were doing well, and how you were winning. We managed to do that and we’ve kept it going for a little bit, which is nice.”

Joe Salisbury of Great Britain, in a post-match interview with the ATP website, after he and Rajeev Ram of the United States successfully defended their Nitto ATP Finals doubles title.