First-Time Winner Spotlight: Neal Skupski
Neal Skupski has started his 2018 much like he finished 2017. At the end of last season, he teamed with brother Ken Skupski to make the ATP Challenger Tour final in Eckental, Germany, and triumph in Bratislava, Slovakia. The brothers then captured the trophy two weeks ago at another Challenger in Quimper, France. But this past week, Neal achieved his greatest result to date, joining Ken again to win his first tour-level title at the Open Sud de France in Montpellier.
How does it feel to be an ATP World Tour champion?
It’s unbelievable. It’s obviously a dream come true to win an ATP event with your brother. Ken’s won three before, but never with me. We came very close four years ago in Moscow. We had match points… it’s nice to finally get over the line and hopefully win a few more together before the year ends.
Beating the second seeds in your opener and the fourth seeds in the final, how incredible was the whole week for you?
Going into it, I think we were one of the last teams to get into the tournament. Playing against the No. 2 seeds you have nothing to lose, really. We go into that match, we come out on top and take a lot of confidence from that and just took the momentum from round to round.
Did your brother say anything to you before match point?
Yeah, I think he did but I can’t quite remember. The last game went by pretty quickly. I held to love, all four first serves in. I couldn’t have asked for a better game, really. I was pretty nervous about it but once we got over the line there was a lot of hugging going on. My brother and I were pretty happy.
What were the first comments he made after you won?
He did say he was very proud of me, but obviously it was a team effort. It was our first time winning a title, he was proud of that. It was great for the whole family. We worked really hard to get to this point. But hopefully this is just the first one, hopefully there are more to come.
Making the quarter-finals at Wimbledon was special to you. How does this achievement compare?
It’s very difficult. Obviously playing at Wimbledon is very special, it’s your home Grand Slam. We beat some great teams on the way there. You go into the Grand Slam thinking to win a couple rounds. But to make the quarter-finals was incredible. Ever since that we’ve gained a lot of confidence. Toward the end of the year we changed sides. I’m on the ad side, Ken’s on the deuce side now. That’s done really well. Our first tournament we made the final of Eckental, Germany. Won Bratislava, then Quimper and now we’ve won Montpellier. So it’s gone well so far on these sides.
This week you’re playing with a 91-time tour-level champion, Daniel Nestor for the first time. How exciting is that to you?
He’s a lefty, which is going to help a little bit. I’m going to be listening to him the whole week. He’s definitely got a lot of things to tell me, hopefully not too much (laughs). But it’s going to be an honour to play with Daniel this week. It’s nice to play with him before he finishes. But yeah, hopefully we could get some good practices in before we start.