My Journey To Doubles No. 1
It's been quite the ride...
I still can't quite believe it, seeing No. 1 next to my name. It’s an awesome feeling to get there, especially considering how close I came to packing it all in a few years ago. If it weren't for my wife, Ale, and coach, Louis Cayer, who knows where I'd be now? They both really believed that I could do great things. It took me a lot longer to realise it.
My first tennis memories were being over at Dunblane Sports Club. My mum was the club coach there. When Andy and I were young, we were always over there, running around the back of the courts, picking up the balls for her, while she was coaching the older kids. I guess we were bound to pick up a racquet at some point, but I don’t think my mum would ever have imagined we’d get to where we are today. It’s been a great journey: a lot of ups and downs, but it’s been a great ride.
I was really good under-12 and under-14 in Europe. From there, I thought I was going to be able to make a go of it. But then it started to change. I wasn’t really a great junior by the time I was 17, 18.
I had the chance to go to an American university. I decided not to and started playing Futures and Challengers. I wasn’t really doing anything special in singles, but by the end of 2006 I had my ranking high enough that I could start to play a lot more ATP events.
For me, I really wanted to test myself against the best players in the world, wanted to play the biggest tournaments I could and on the biggest courts I could. For me, that’s what it’s all about and doubles gave me the chance to do that. Ten years later I’m still able to do it, so I’m very fortunate.
Success came quickly in 2007. Maybe too quickly. I won three ATP World Tour titles in the first half of the year with Eric Butorac, the first coming in San Jose, the same day that Andy won the singles title. Then came Wimbledon, where I won the mixed doubles with Jelena Jankovic. It was all pretty surreal. But even when I go to the club now, you see your name up on the board and no-one can take that away from you.
Everything was going good, everything was going up. I guess there was some naivety, I was young. You just kind of expect that things will keep going that way. Obviously it didn’t.
I had spells where my ranking dropped. I was outside the Top 100 for a little while. I was battling for a good couple of years. I didn’t really have a regular partner either, which wasn’t helping much.
The partnership with John Peers probably saved my career. We played together for three years from 2013. It was good to have that continuity and direction all the time, which was a huge advantage for me, and for him as well. If I hadn’t started playing with John when I did, I'm not sure how much longer I would have kept playing for. I was just kind of floating about, had no direction to what I was doing.
We managed to win three tournaments in our first year and I think we finished the year about 30. It was during that season that I also started working with a sports psychologist.
I knew it was a huge opportunity for me to try to make a partnership work and try to get my career going in the right direction again. I wanted to work with someone to try to help me be the best partner I could be and try to make the team as strong as possible. Certainly from my end, I didn’t want to mess it up, because I knew the previous couple of years had been a real struggle. It's been huge for me.
It was tough losing both the Wimbledon and US Open finals last year with John. But both times I had Davis Cup the week after, so I had another big event to try to prepare for. So there was a bit of a distraction in that regard. It was a shame we lost, obviously, but we didn't necessarily play bad matches, we just came up against better teams on the day.
We did great to qualify for the Finals at the end of the year. It was a bit sad the way we finished with that match against the Bryans, where we had five match points. But that can happen, that's doubles. It was a sad way to end the partnership, but it's done now.
You never know what to expect when you begin a new partnership, but when I teamed up with Bruno Soares this year we had an amazing start.
The first few matches we played in Doha, I felt really good being on the same side of the net as Bruno. We seemed to understand what each other was trying to do on the court, what was going to work well for us, understanding each other’s strengths.
To be honest I didn’t feel particularly nervous going to play the Australian Open final against Nestor and Stepanek. Bruno and I didn’t really have a massive chat. We just committed to doing the best we could for each other and for each point that we were on the court for.
On our first match point I probably hit my best serve of the whole blooming tournament and Nestor hit it straight back past me. Then obviously we lost that game. Having the chance to serve for it at 5-4 in the third and not doing it, obviously a few negative thoughts crept in, but we did brilliantly to break serve the next game. Then, when we were up 40/0, I didn’t think we were going to blow it from there.
It was an amazing feeling to win. For us, it’s the pinnacle of our careers to play Grand Slam finals. To be able to win one is awesome.
I didn't expect to look up after the match and see Andy in the box. It was after 1am and he had the singles final to play against Novak Djokovic the following day! I thought he'd gone back to the hotel before we went on for our match. Maybe he came back when he thought we had a chance!
It was really important for me to thank Ale, Alan MacDonald and Louis on court after the Australian Open final.
I've been with Ale for the past seven years and she is the one when I'm winning matches, great, but when I'm losing matches and coming home disappointed, she was the one who was there, who kept believing in me, kept telling me I had talent, that I could do great things.
She's my rock. She made me keep believing, keep wanting to do it, get to the top. It's emotional to talk about that stuff.
Alan has been helping me at various stages since I was 17 and has been a great friend to me. Like Louis, Alan is immensely dedicated to what he’s doing and it always trying to help me get better.
I had Louis with me on and off for 10 years. He's the guy that made it happen for me to have success on the doubles court. He really believed that I could do great things. Every time he worked with me, he kept telling me that he really believed I could get to No. 1. It's a process. Whether I believed I could do it, I don't know, but he did. I just did what he told me.
And now here I am. It's really special to become the first British player in singles or doubles to rank No. 1. And I hope Andy is going to be the second.