Photo : Peter Power/Tennis Canada
By Max Gao
No. 3 seed Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury earned their first victory in five meetings against No. 1 seeds Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic, defeating the all-Croatian pairing, 6-3, 4-6, 10-3, to win their first title of the season — and their first ATP Masters 100 title as a team — at the 2021 National Bank Open presented by Rogers.
After suffering four straight defeats to Mektic and Pavic earlier this year, Ram and Salisbury were looking to flip the script and raced out of the blocks, keeping their opponents at bay with big serves, deep returns and effective volleys. The American-British team broke in the fourth game to lead 3-1 and later fended off two break points in the seventh game en route to taking the opening set in just under half an hour. The No. 3 seeds were particularly impressive in their own service games, winning 94% (15/16) of their first-serve points in the first set.
But Mektic and Pavic, who were looking to win their 10th title of the season after winning titles at Wimbledon and the Tokyo Olympics, would not go down without a fight. After failing to capitalize on three break points earlier in the set, the No. 1 seeds were able to bide their time and earn a crucial break in the 10th game to level the match at one-set-all.
However, in the 10-point match tiebreak, Ram and Salisbury were able to raise their level once more, jumping out to an early 4-1 lead and never really looking back. After an hour and 22 minutes, Salisbury sealed the victory with a backhand winner to record the British-American tandem’s first title of the season — and third overall — after falling in finals at the Australian Open, the Internazionali BNL d’Italia and the Viking International Eastbourne.
”It was great to have another battle with Mektic and Pavic,” Salisbury said after the match. “Thank you to Rajeev on being such an amazing partner. We have had a good year together. We have had some tough losses, and this is our first title together this year and first Masters 1000 title together, so this one is really special.”