All eyes are on Novak Djokovic’s pursuit of the Grand Slam at this 12 months’s US Open. However within the doubles draw, a workforce that has been equally as dominant this season can be pursuing glory at Flushing Meadows.
Croatians Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic debuted their partnership initially of 2021, they usually instantly clicked. In lower than eight months, they’ve received 9 tour-level titles, together with triumphs at Wimbledon, the Tokyo Olympics and three ATP Masters 1000 occasions.
“I feel nobody might have imagined this. [But] we wouldn’t have accomplished it if we didn’t assume we might be the very best,” Mektic instructed ATPTour.com. “We had been anticipating to play nicely, anticipating to have the ability to win each match we play, nevertheless it’s been fairly superb up to now.”
Djokovic, who has lifted the trophy on the 12 months’s first three majors, is 38-5 in 2021, giving him an 88.4 successful share. Mektic and Pavic are 56-7 for an 88.9 successful share. 4 of their seven losses have are available a deciding set.
“We had some targets at first of the 12 months, however we’ve accomplished all of them up to now. My private aim was that Wimbledon title that we managed to win this 12 months,” Pavic mentioned. “Now it’s simply [about] discovering some new targets on a regular basis. You go match after match, you attempt to win as many matches as you’ll be able to and win as many tournaments as you’ll be able to.”
Pavic and Mektic received their first main title collectively at Wimbledon this 12 months. Picture Credit score: AFP/Getty Photos.
Of their debut season, Mektic and Pavic have already loved among the best doubles campaigns of the twenty first century. Since 2000, solely Bob Bryan and Mike Bryan have received a minimum of 10 tour-level titles in a season. They did it 4 occasions, claiming a career-best 12 crowns in 2010. In addition to Mektic and Pavic, the one different workforce to raise 9 trophies in a season this millennium was Daniel Nestor and Nenad Zimonjic in 2009.
With out hindsight, turning into a pair was a dangerous transfer. Pavic and Bruno Soares fashioned the year-end No. 1 workforce final season, and Mektic and Wesley Koolhof received the 2020 Nitto ATP Finals collectively. Each duos had been clearly profitable, however the Croatians needed to play collectively.
“I feel it could have been only a matter of time if it didn’t occur at first of this 12 months. Sooner or later, I’m fairly certain in the future we might have ultimately performed collectively,” Pavic mentioned. “It occurred on the finish of final 12 months and now we’re right here.”
Mektic and Pavic are from the identical nation, however they aren’t like star Colombian duo Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah, who’ve been shut buddies since childhood. Mektic, 32, and Pavic, 28, first obtained to know one another round 2017. Mektic knew Pavic was an ideal junior, nevertheless it was the latter who broke onto the Tour first.
How have they meshed so nicely on courtroom? In line with Pavic, they’re like two puzzle items completely molded collectively.
“We simply have a totally completely different method and magnificence of play. I feel he’s extra of a strong man, good total in all the things,” Pavic mentioned. “I’m anyone who brings some weapons, a superb serve, massive strokes. I feel that’s a superb factor on the courtroom. We’re utterly various kinds of gamers taking part in collectively and that’s one thing that’s clearly not simple for individuals. While you mix all of that collectively, it makes us a superb workforce.”
Picture Credit score: Peter Staples/ATP Tour
It actually helps that they get alongside nicely off courtroom. Whether or not taking part in UNO — the identical card recreation Djokovic usually performs along with his workforce — or simply chatting, Mektic and Pavic are each laid again.
“We’re each easygoing, I’d say. It’s robust to get aggravated by one another,” Pavic mentioned. “We’re following basketball and a few issues exterior of tennis. We each prefer to comply with sports activities. We have now a number of the similar concepts, methods of considering. We’re additionally taking part in fantasy collectively.”
Pavic was referring to a fantasy basketball league they’re each in.
“Don’t go there, as a result of I don’t need to reply the query, ‘Are you successful or shedding,’” Mektic mentioned.
“How did you end fantasy final 12 months?” Pavic replied, cracking a smile.
Pavic is a giant fan of retired Chicago Bulls participant Toni Kukoc, additionally of Croatia. Mektic believes LeBron James will lead the Lo Angeles Lakers to the title subsequent 12 months.
“5 days earlier than the draft, I’ve to take a while off from tennis,” Mektic joked.
A part of what makes the Croatians a particular pair is that they get extra animated about their fantasy basketball league than they do talking about their on-court accomplishments. Mektic and Pavic, who’re the highest seeds in New York, stroll on courtroom, attempt to play their finest tennis and permit the outcomes to handle themselves.
“We’re prepared for it. We’re able to lose,” Mektic mentioned. “We simply hold taking part in our video games and attempt to hold our heads down and do what we do. If anyone’s higher, if anyone deserves to win that day, we are saying ‘nicely accomplished’ and we carry on going.”