Wesley Koolhof and Nikola Mektic ended their first tag team season with their first title on Sunday, beating Jurgen Melzer and Edouard Roger-Vasselin 6-2, 4-6, 10-5 to win the Nitto ATP Finals Trophy.
The fifth-seeded, who joined forces at Adelaide International in January, won 61% of their second serve return points (11/18) to clinch the trophy in 76 minutes. It was a third chance case for the Dutch-Croatian tandem, who lost their first two finals at the Open 13 Provence in Marseille and the US Open earlier this year. Koolhof and Mektic end the season with a 24-13 team record.
“[It is] a dream come true to qualify here for this event, ”Koolhof said at the trophy ceremony. “[We] managed to play very good tennis, passed the group stage. Won yesterday, played a great game yesterday. Played here the final today, which is still a dream, to play every final. But to play the final of [Nitto ATP] The finish is very big and [we are] extremely happy to have won.
Koolhof is the fourth Dutch player to win the Nitto ATP Finals doubles crown. The 31-year-old joins two-time champion Jacco Eltingh / Paul Haarhuis (1993, ’98) and Jean-Julien Rojer (2015) in the exclusive club. Mektic is the first Croatian to win a trophy in the season finale.
“I can’t express what I’m feeling,” Mektic said. “[I am] really, really happy. It’s like a dream come true.
One of the main hallmarks of Koolhof and Mektic’s title race at the O2 has been the consistent success they have found on their returns. The pair continued this trend in the opener of the game, as Mektic tore a forehand return winner down the line to interrupt the serve. Koolhof and Mektic pulled low returns at 3-1 to gain a double break advantage and won the set with a loving serve take.
Melzer and Roger-Vasselin won the first break of the second set, while Roger-Vasselin extracted the volley errors with aggressive play from the baseline. The Saint Petersburg champions staged three service matches with relative ease to force the final into a deciding match.
In the tie-break, Mektic took the initiative to make the crucial difference. The Croatian connected on several returns and played calmly at the net to reach 9/5. On the pair’s first league point, Melzer hit a double fault to end the game.
“Wes, obviously thank you very much. This is our first title together. Not bad for a first… It was a great tournament for us and an incredible way to end the year, ”said Mektic.
Melzer and Roger-Vasselin also attempted to lift the trophy on their team debut in the season finale. The duo topped the Bob Bryan squad with a 2-1 record and rallied 1/7 in a tiebreaker to beat Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury in the semi-finals. Melzer and Roger-Vasselin end their 2020 TBEN season with a 26-15 record, evidenced by their title race at the St. Petersburg Open.
“It was a hell of a trick. We’ve fought hard since Roland Garros, we’ve played almost every week to get here, then coming to the Nitto ATP Final is a great achievement, ”said Melzer. “Of course it stings today, and it hurts, but in the end we will come back to our second place here. The Nitto [ATP Finals] is the pinnacle of our sport. Every player wants to be a part of this event. I have been fortunate enough to participate three times and I will always look back and cherish this moment.
Koolhof and Mektic, who finished the tournament with a 4-1 record, collected 1,300 FedEx ATP Doubles team ranking points and shared $ 254,500 in prizes. Melzer and Roger-Vasselin got 800 points and shared $ 184,500.
“Thank you Jurgen for a great year. [It was our] last game together today, ”said Roger-Vasselin. “We wish we could win the other trophy, but it was a long, long journey to come to London and make it to the final. Maybe after a few days I will realize it was a good week. But at the moment, it’s painful.
Did you know?
Ten of the 15 doubles matches at the O2 this year required a decisive match.