After joining up at the start of the 2022 season, the Dutch/British duo have won three titles in six events, including victories their first 10 matches. By reaching the BNP Paribas Open quarter-finals, they’ve improved their season record to 19-3.
Great Britain’s Skupski reached a career-high doubles ATP Ranking of No. 14 last season, when he primarily played with his brother and longtime partner Ken Skupski, as well as British singles No. 2 Daniel Evans.
As Koolhof was looking for a partner for the new year, Skupski was available and fit the profile for the Dutchman’s ideal teammate: a talented, doubles-focused player around the same age… and preferably someone who could play the ad court, given that Koolhof has played the deuce side for the past seven years.
“I’m always trying to look for a bit of a longer partnership,” the former doubles World No. 5 told ATPTour.com.
He asked Skupski to pair up, and after some discussions about tennis philosophy and tactics, they decided to go for it. While the pair were not previously close outside the Tour, they were friendly at tournaments, often chatting about fantasy football. Being the same age, they both came up through the ATP Challenger Tour at the same time as they made their way to the top of the game.
The accomplished pairing expected success in their new venture, but even they were surprised by how quickly it came.
“You go into a new partnership not knowing what’s going to happen,” Skupski explained. “You just kind of hope it’s going to click early on. Some teams it takes a couple of months to get used to each other. But I think with me and Wes, we’re very similar off the court as well. We’re quiet. Our game styles have matched straight away.”
After first getting on the court together the week before their first event in Melbourne, they won a match tie-break in the opening round of the Melbourne Summer Set, then won their next 18 sets in a row. Those 18 sets propelled them to ATP 250 titles in Melbourne and Adelaide, and a quarter-final run at the Australian Open.
The Dutch-British pair defeated Bopanna & Shapovalov 7-6, 6-1 Qatar finals🤜
— ATP Tour (@atptour) February 18, 2022
“The idea was to play as many matches as possible before going into the first Slam, and we did that.” Koolhof said, delivering that understatement with a smile. “It doesn’t happen that many times that you start a new partnership and directly win three tournaments in your first six.”
Both men enjoy the team aspect of doubles, and have also represented their home nations in both Olympic and Davis Cup competition. Skupski played college tennis at LSU has always enjoyed team sports, while Koolhof grew up playing soccer in Holland.
“I think it does help me on the doubles court, having someone next to me,” Skupski said of the discipline. “You can be a bit more open and you don’t want to let each other down. So it spurs you on to be successful.”
Koolhof and Skupski are hopeful that their newly formed team, and their title rush, will last long into the future. In addition to the familiarity of a consistent partner, the Dutchman also mentioned other benefits of long-term parings, including from a branding and fan-engagement perspective.
They’ll face a long-term partnership in the Indian Wells quarter-finals, when they take on Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury. That American-British pairing won the Australian Open title in 2020 and the US Open in ’21, as well as an ATP Masters 1000 title in Toronto last summer.
With three ATP 250 titles already to their name, Koolhof and Skupski are seeking similar results. A trophy in Indian Wells would be their biggest yet.
“We’ve come together at the right time, and hopefully we can continue with our success so far,” said Skupski.