Joe Salisbury: Two years ago I couldn’t dream of the ATP Finals ... now we’re going for the win

MATT MAJENDIE
Evening Standard
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Getty Images

There's a Brit in action at the £7million ATP Finals at the O2 Arena next week and his surname isn’t Murray.

At least one of the brothers has been at the past six editions of the event, sometimes both, but for the first time since 2013, the Murrays are missing.

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That’s because Andy is still climbing up the world order after having hip surgery, while Jamie is in a new partnership with Neal Skupski, the duo having joined forces during the grass-court season earlier this year.

Instead, there is another Briton hoping to make a name for himself amid crowd favourites like of Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal. Far from a household name, he is Joe Salisbury, born in Putney but now firmly rooted in Peckham.

It is barely a week since the 27-year-old qualified for the doubles at the finals with his American partner Rajeev Ram, but it is a fitting reward after enjoying his best season, having won in excess of £400,000, which is double what he had earned for the rest of his career.

For Salisbury, seeing money in his account is a novelty, since in his early days he was propped up by the bank of mum and dad.

“I’ve had a year and a half of making good money but, before that, it was basically nothing,” he said.

“I’ve been fortunate that my parents have always been very supportive and helped out with my expenses.

“After going to college in the US, I had a few years in singles and then doubles when I wasn’t making any money.

“I definitely had those moments where I thought whether professional tennis was for me and whether I could get to this level, but I’ve got quite a strong inner belief.”

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Salisbury has not turned into a spendthrift, instead the change in finances has enabled him to pour more money into his game in terms of hiring a physio and having his coach Justin Sherring, who has been with him on and off since the age of six, with him more regularly.

In terms of the doubts, the only time he genuinely thought about walking away was as a teenager when he was struck down by glandular fever, which stopped him from playing for a year, and then he had a growth spurt, leading to a series of injuries.

Salisbury at least had the back-up option of an economics and business degree in America in case he failed to realise his tennis dream.

A Wimbledon semi-finalist in the men’s doubles from a year ago, he insists qualifying for London eclipses that achievement.

“This is pretty much my first full year on the tour and our first season together, so it’s a bit unexpected,” he said of a partnership which resulted in a final appearance in Brisbane in their first outing. He says it is a pairing “that just clicked”.

Salisbury said: “It’s a huge deal for me, especially with it being in London and I wouldn’t have thought even two years ago that I’d been playing there.

"I’ve been watching it on TV for so long and it’s the pinnacle of the tour. Some people say the Grand Slams are bigger but this means you’ve had a great year.”

Salisbury and Ram have reached five finals in all this year, winning titles in Brisbane and Dubai, as well as being on the receiving end of Andy Murray’s winning return at Queen’s.

Murray has been training alongside Salisbury at the National Tennis Centre in Roehampton for the past week.

“Andy and Jamie have offered their congratulations and it’s nice to carry on with a Brit in the tournament,” he said. “And hopefully we’ll all be back next year.”

For now, Salisbury has his own moment in the spotlight with the genuine belief that he can be victorious come next Sunday.

“Yeah, why not,” he said. “We’ve beaten most of the top guys this year and I’d like to think I’ll have the home support.”

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