Ever since Louis Cayer was spotted up in the players’ box at Wimbledon as a gangly, very big-haired Jamie Murray was on his way to a first Mixed Doubles Slam title in Wimbledon, the doubles mill has been turning with success for British tennis.
As well as a five Mixed Doubles Slam titles, Murray has done the business in the ‘day job’ twice (Australian Open & US Open, 2016) and reached the Wimbledon final the year previously.
Still it came as a surprise last year at Roland Garros when he and Bruno Soares announced they were going their separate ways, and that he would be teaming up with fellow Brit Neal Skupski.
Since teaming up, they gelled a bit more during the US hard court swing of last year, reaching the US Open semi-finals and the Shanghai Masters 1000 semi-finals. Teaming up on the post-lockdown restart at the Battle of the Brits, they won the final and went on at the tour restart to reach the final of the Cincinnati Masters, before going out in the US Open quarter-finals.
Murray said, after reaching the quarter-finals in Paris for the second time since 2017: “I think we played a really good match from start to finish. We knew it was going to be really tough against those guys, very good team and very competitive, always bringing a lot of energy to the court.
“But I think we did a really good job. Did well to hang in at the start of the third set after letting the second set kind of slip a little bit and, yeah, super happy to win.”
Clay has not usually been a surface that suits the rangy Murray well, but with the slow, claggy conditions acting as quite a leveller, perhaps it is better suited to the elder Murray.
“I think it’s just more obviously the weather’s a lot colder, balls are heavier, but the actual court surface is fine, like most years. You’re just obviously not getting the bounce on the ball or the reaction off the ball when you’re hitting it. But actually, for me it’s been good because I feel like I’ve got a lot of time on the return, can use my different shots.
“Actually, I think for the style of game that I play, coming forwards it’s not easy for the baseline guys to kind of create power on their shots because, one, the ball’s not bouncing very high at all so they’re having to lift the ball all the time, plus that ball is heavy, plus it’s 12 degrees. So I actually think in these conditions my style of play actually is working out well for me.”
It appears to be a similar story for Joe Salisbury, paired with Rajeev Ram and the No. 3 seeds here this fortnight. He and Ram are already one slam to the good, having won the Australian Open earlier this year.
“Like Jamie said, I think it does help the players that maybe aren’t as kind of natural at kind of moving and playing on the clay just because the courts aren’t as slippery so maybe it’s a bit easier to move. And obviously it’s not as lively, it’s not getting up as much. So even though it is quite slow, it’s more in the hitting zone.”
Both pay tribute to the system that Cayer has put in for the men’s doubles program.
Salisbury said: “Definitely adds a lot of value. He’s helped all the Brits and I don’t think a lot of us would be up where we were without his support, without his coaching.”
Murray, who has been working with Cayer now since 2006, said: “It’s his teaching, how he sees the game, his philosophy on the game. All the boys that are coming through are taught that certainly when it comes to sort of positioning, movement, creating uncertainty for the opponents.
“He has his principles and stuff. Obviously, I think from very early on for me, I mean I had a lot of success early, obviously I’ve been able to play at the top of the game for quite a long time now. I think for the other boys coming through, I think they obviously see something that works and believe in and see that you can have success with that.
“They have gone through that process as well, and we have got a lot of guys playing at this level of events now.”
Play continues at Roland Garros on Day Nine at 11am (10am BST).
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