Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic, the Winning Couple of Tennis

“I was the one that stopped playing with my ex-partner, even though we finished as No. 1,” said Pavic by video. “We were just thinking differently about some things, like the tournament schedule. I was 27, he was 38 then. We were at a different stage of our careers. But we finished No. 1, so there was no reason to think we would not continue playing together.”

Mektic, who began to focus on doubles five years ago, was also surprised.

“I still feel bad when I talk about it because I had a great partnership with Wesley, and I would have continued to play with him,” Mektic said. “But when [Pavic] asked me, it was just one of those things I couldn’t say no to. He’s the best player in the world and I thought this partnership could be the best team in the world. And I was kind of right looking at what we’ve seen this far.”

Mektic and Pavic won their first 12 matches together before being stopped in the semifinals of the Australian Open. They then notched an 18-match win streak from June to August.

According to both players, there is a fine art to playing doubles.

“It’s a completely different sport,” Pavic said. “The singles guys are obviously better tennis players. They hit the ball better. But their understanding of the game, positioning, being in the right place at the right time on the court, it’s just not the same in doubles.”

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“It’s not all about forehands and backhands,” Mektic said. “Tennis-wise and personality-wise some guys are very individual, and they have problems working together with someone. Having good communication with your partner definitely helps.”

Mektic and Pavic are aware that top singles players earn more prize money, get prime-time court exposure and receive greater sponsorship perks. But in some ways being No. 1 in doubles is better than being Novak Djokovic, who is ending 2021 ranked No. 1 in singles for a record seventh year.

“It’s a different kind of life that Novak and the other guys have, and I can’t even imagine how it is,” Mektic said. “For us, you reach the top of your sport, but you still remain the same person and you’re not that popular. People are not going to stop you on the street and make you uncomfortable. In that sense, I like it this way. I like that I can just live a normal life.”

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