Playing in his first Grand Slam final 16 years after becoming a professional, Philipp Polacek was ready for the moment, and almost every ball that came his way.
Polacek and his partner, Evan Dodig, prevailed 6-3, 6-4 in a match that dominated the defending champions, Joe Sallesbury and Rajeev Ram, in the Australian Open men’s doubles final on Sunday afternoon. Felt as near. Score suggested.
“It was still great today,” Salisbury said on the court as he accepted his runner-up plate. “This is one of the best performances in a final, ever, so congratulations.”
Polacek dominated the match with his ability to make a comeback, beating six clean comeback winners in the second set. His strong return from the right side of the court helped create 15 break point opportunities for his pair; Although he converted only two of them, he got a comfortable win over Britton Salisbury and American Ram, who earned no break point chances.
“Today I picked it up from the start,” said Polacek, the 36-year-old dodig who said the team had more reliable returners in general, finishing ninth in the tournament. “I was just trying to last as long as possible . “
Polacek, a 35-year-old from Slovakia, has already been able to pursue a career well beyond what he had ever imagined, due to a back injury that effectively retired from tennis in late 2013. The veins were attached. In his left leg.
“I couldn’t really feel my left leg,” Polsec told broadcaster Mike Cation in 2019. I couldn’t jump, I couldn’t land on it, I couldn’t push my left leg. The leg was also bouncing when the match was over. Then I decided to stop. “
When treatment failed to improve his condition, Polacek coached youth tennis for three years. He He said that he was not thinking about competing on the tour during that time, and that he did not play a Grand Slam event between the 2013 United States Open and Wimbledon in 2019.
Polasek had been at peace with a career in which he reached the top 20 and won 11 ATP titles in doubles, but American tennis player Mike Bryan pulled him back on the tour. Bryan, now retired, had found Polacek when he was in Slovakia seeking practice partners with his Slovak girlfriend, Nadia Murgasova, who is now his wife.
Bryan encouraged Polasek to play again, and with his injury down, he was able to resume his career in 2018.
“It’s a type of second career; “There is not much to do with the first one,” Polacek said in 2019. I am using those six years of experience at the top before that. “
Success was found quickly. Polacek reached the semifinals of Wimbledon in 2019 with Dodig as his partner and then a month later won the Cincinnati Masters for the title of Polacek’s first career ATP Masters 1000.
“If you don’t believe dreams come true, talk to Philippe Polacek,” Indian tennis player Somdev Devvarman Said on Twitter on Sunday.
Polacek smiled when told about Devvarman’s message, but said winning the Grand Slam title was “always a dream come true.”
“For me the first Wimbledon was really like a fairy tale,” Polacek said. After winning the Cincinnati title, we confirmed that we are indeed in the group of top doubles players. Since I started believing too much that we could actually win a slam. We did everything for it. “
Reaching her first Grand Slam final meant Polacek missed the birth of her second daughter, Olivia-Victoria, on Friday.
Polasek said the Australian Open had been pushed back for several weeks due to epidemiological reasons, with he and his fiance, Karin discussing whether it still makes sense for them to make the trip.
“We made a deal,” Polsec said. “She Said, ‘I’ll keep it, and if you make the final, you can miss it.’
Polasek laughingly recounted how he had caught her at the end of the bargain: Polasek and Dodig gave their fiancée their daughter shortly after winning the semifinal matches against Croatia’s Met Pavic and Nikola Mectic.
“It’s quite sad,” Polasek said, recalling the birth. “But it’s great to end it that way.”
The Australian Open this year represents a growing innings towards the dominance of doubles specialists in men’s doubles, who are older than the players on most singles tours.
Seventy-five of 128 men also competed in the doubles, starting in the first round of the men’s singles draw; By the time the men’s doubles draw reached the quarterfinals, only one of the remaining 16 players, Pierre-Hughes Herbert, had a crossover from singles.
For Dodig, who was himself the first top-30 singles player in his career, the growing strength of doubles players was a matter of pride.
Dodig said of the top singles players, “They have great quality. They are incredible players, maybe every single one of them is a better player than the doubles players.” “But that’s not the point – the point is that they don’t play doubles. We know how to avoid the good parts of their game. We don’t play how they want to play. That’s the key.”