Joe Salisbury ends British trophy drought at French Open with mixed doubles title

Joe Salisbury and Desirae Krawczyk celebrate their win at Roland Garros

Credit: AFP

Putney’s Joe Salisbury ended almost 40 years of hurt for British players at Roland Garros as he lifted the mixed-doubles final trophy with his American partner Desirae Krawczyk.
 
The last time a British player picked up one of these titles was when John Lloyd achieved the same honour with Australia’s Wendy Turnbull, all the way back in 1982.
 
There was an odd coda to this rare triumph, however. At the post-match press conference, it emerged that Salisbury and Krawczyk won’t be playing together at Wimbledon in just over a fortnight’s time.

Fear not: this was not the outcome of some awful on-court meltdown. If anyone was going to have one of those, it was their Russian opponents Elena Vesnina and Aslan Karatsev, who switched from dominating the first set to barely finding the court as they went down by a 2-6, 6-4, 10-5 margin.

No, the issue was one of nationality. As Salisbury explained, “A couple months ago I said that I was probably going to play with a Brit for Wimbledon. So, yeah, unfortunately I ditched her [Krawczyk] for that. But I’m sure we’ll team back up again after.”

Instead, Salisbury has settled on Harriet Dart – who reached the semi-finals of Wimbledon’s mixed doubles in 2018 – as his partner in SW19. “Maybe we’ll play you in the first round,” said Krawczyk with a smile.

Mixed-doubles partnerships usually have an ad hoc element. Indeed, Karatsev was making his first appearance in any such event, having been too low-ranked to earn a main-draw place at the slams until this spring. (The four grand slams, and the Olympics, are the only tournaments to feature a mixed draw.)

Salisbury and Krawczyk only needed two wins to reach the trophy match, thanks to the decision of Giuliana Olmos and Juan Sebastian Cabal to withdraw from Tuesday’s semi-final (the latter still being involved in the more prestigious men’s doubles event).

Yet any suggestion that this was a hit-and-giggle match should have been dispelled by the heated argument between Salisbury and chair umpire Carlos Ramos towards the end of the second set. Salisbury thought he had hit an ace to clinch the set, and moved back to his chair, only for the serve to be ruled out. He then double-faulted in frustration, but still managed to regather himself in time to avoid being broken.

“It was good it was 40-Love and not 40-30, because we lost the next two points,” said Salisbury, who had previously won the men’s doubles at last year’s Australian Open with another American partner in Rajeev Ram. “I just didn’t understand his point of view, because the mark was at a completely different angle to where the serve was coming from. I’m not sure how he thought that that was the mark. Yeah, I had to try and compose myself after that.

“But all week we have just gone into it kind of relaxed, enjoying ourselves, and seeing what happens. We have come out with a grand slam title.”

Can Djokovic stop Nadal?

By Simon Briggs

It’s been a couple of years since we have seen a true “Big Three” humdinger at a grand slam. So Friday’s 58th tour meeting between Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal is inspiring plenty of excitement and anticipation.

Nadal is almost unbeatable at Roland Garros, with a win-loss record of 105-2. Yet he will be all too aware that the only active player to have overcome him here was Djokovic, in the 2015 quarter-finals.

Now, it’s worth remembering that 2015 and 2016 were Nadal’s wilderness years. His tennis went through a kind of mid-life crisis in the build-up to his 30th birthday, as he lost not only his confidence but also the pop he usually puts on the ball.

In the circumstances, we could place an asterisk against Djokovic’s one-sided 7-5, 6-3, 6-1 victory that day. The same could also be said of Robin Soderling’s victory over Nadal in 2009 – a season when he was simultaneously battling knee trouble and digesting news of his parents’ separation.

Has anyone ever beaten a full-power Nadal at the French Open? The simple answer is no. Still, Djokovic looks to have a shot on Friday, as long as he can maintain the quality of strokeplay that ousted Matteo Berrettini in Wednesday’s quarter-final.

Logic suggests that mortality will eventually catch up with Nadal, who turned 35 last week. Djokovic is only 11 months younger, but has had significantly fewer injury worries over the years. He loves making history, and a victory today would certainly stand high up his cv.

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