Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury may not win a multitude of titles in a season, but the trophies they earn usually come at the most prestigious events the sport has to offer. So beware of this pair at the Nitto ATP Finals, where last year they went all the way to the final, falling just short against Frenchmen Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut. Expect another big run in Turin this year.
A standout 32-14 record this season has helped Ram and Salisbury qualify for their fourth appearance together at the Nitto ATP Finals. So they come into this year’s season finale with strong form and deep confidence.
“It’s [at the] top of my list as far as favourite events to play,” Ram told ATPTour.com “It’s such a special event to qualify for. We’ve been lucky enough to play it a few times, lost a tough one in the final last year. Just how tennis in general gets showcased, anytime we get to play it’s definitely an honour.”
The American-British team, who are No. 2 in the Pepperstone ATP Live Doubles Teams Rankings, collected three titles this year and continued their trend of winning ‘the big ones’, including triumphing at the ATP Masters 1000 events in Monte Carlo and Cincinnati.
The duo carried its momentum from Cincinnati into New York, where they successfully defended their US Open crown. Ram and Salisbury claimed their third Grand Slam trophy together, having also won the 2020 Australian Open. The duo also enjoyed semi-final appearances at the Australian Open, BNP Paribas Open, and Wimbledon.
“Those [Masters 1000s and Grand Slams] are the ones we want to win, the big ones,” Salisbury said. “Even if it’s only a couple a year, those are the ones we are going for. I think it’s good we perform our best at those bigger tournaments. I think we plan our schedule to focus on those and to peak at those times.”
Joe Salisbury (left) and Rajeev Ram collect the title in Monte Carlo. Credit: Corinne Dubreuil/ATP Tour
Ram and Salisbury, who began their partnership at the beginning of 2019, played their first tournament together at the ATP 250 event in Brisbane [January 2019] and all signs indicated it would be a successful pairing. The duo completed a runner-up finish at its maiden event before claiming its first team title the following month in Dubai.
When Salisbury initially approached Ram, he patiently waited for a response from the American, who was at the ‘top of his list’. It didn’t take long for Ram to buy in and believe they had something going.
“I had played against Joe, lost both times I played him,” Ram said. “You never know [if it’s going to be successful] until you start. I really felt like we had a chance to do well together after we had a training block the December before we first started. It felt pretty natural on court together, felt like we had the same idea on continuing to try and get better and be the best we can be.”
The new partnership seemed easy for Ram and Salisbury. They quickly learned that their skill sets gel together well and after four seasons as partners, they’ve collected eight titles.
Ram and Salisbury at the 2021 Nitto ATP Finals. Credit: Corinne Dubreuil/ATP Tour
“I think we have quite similar skills on the court,” Salisbury said. “I think we are a good serving team and we support each other’s serves very well. I think we are a tough team to get broken. We work well together, we bring out the best in each other on court.”
“One of the reasons we combine as well as we do is he brings a lot of enthusiasm, athleticism,” Ram said. “He’s a little fresher and younger on the Tour. I think I can help on the experience side because I’ve been at this for awhile. We try and get the best out of each other in both of those aspects.”
Ram, who turned pro in 2004, is just two wins shy of a milestone 400th career win. As they set their sights on a strong run at the Nitto ATP Finals, Ram has a chance to reach the career mark on Italian soil.
“‘That means I’m old!’ Ram said, while cracking a laugh. “The fact that I’ve played that many matches and been able to be out here long enough to make a milestone like that is great. It’s a dream come true to play tennis for a living and to play for this long is extra special.”
Next week will be Ram’s sixth appearance at the Nitto ATP Finals, where he is a two-time runner-up (2016 w/ Klaasen).
The American will be satisfied with nothing less than sharing the title with Salisbury.
The Nitto ATP Finals run 13-20 November in Turin, Italy.