Australian Open 2021: Defending champions Joe Salisbury and Rajeev Ram beaten in doubles final
Joe Salisbury and his American partner Rajeev Ram were unable to retain their men’s doubles title at the Australian Open, losing 6-3, 6-4 to Croatian Ivan Dodig and Slovakian Filip Polasek, who secured his first Grand Slam trophy after returning to tennis in 2018 after five years in retirement due to a back injury.
Rajeev Ram (L) of the US and partner Britain's Joe Salisbury
'Wonderful' - Dodig and Polasek win men's doubles title
It was Salisbury who dropped serve again in the second set, this time in the seventh game, and it was Polasek who completed his dream comeback to the sport by serving for victory.
The Slovakian, who is now 35, returned to tennis in 2018 after five years in retirement because of a back injury and now has his first Grand Slam title, with Dodig achieving his second men's title, following up his 2015 French Open triumph with Brazilian Marcelo Melo.
It has been a whirlwind week for Polasek, whose partner gave birth to their second child on Friday. He admits it was touch and go about whether he could play in Melbourne at all.
"We had some discussions. I am happy that she said, 'OK, I can go'. We made a deal. She said, 'I will hold [the birth] up, and if you make the final, then you can miss it'”, he said.
"On Thursday we made it through to the final, and on Friday it (the baby) came. It's a second daughter.
"It's nice. I was there for the first one, the delivery. This one, I missed it. It's quite sad. But to end up this way here, it's very nice. I'm also pleased they are both healthy. I am going to see them soon."
Ivan Dodig (left) and Filip Polasek (right) celebrate their Australian Open victory
Image credit: Getty Images
Salisbury admitted they were beaten by a better doubles team, and was impressed by how Polasek raised his game for the decider.
"He played unbelievably today”, he said.
“We talked before the match, it was his first Grand Slam, he might be a bit nervous, might not be playing his best because of the occasion. But he played incredibly well.
"We just needed to serve better. I don't think either of us were serving our best. That was too good for what we had today."
The run to the final represented a fine start to the season for Salisbury, who says he is targeting a first Davis Cup appearance for his country this season.
As Britain’s highest ranked doubles player, he also has one eye on the Tokyo Olympics and admits he would be open to partnering Johanna Konta, who has sent him a video of herself volleying.
"I've spoken to her sort of casually about it," said Salisbury.
I think we're both up for doing that if we can get in.