There is not one thing in particular that helped the Croatians become the best doubles team in the world. However, they do a lot of small things that make a difference in their matches and relationship on and off the court. It is not all about serves and returns or groundstrokes and volleys.
“I think it’s very important to have a decent relationship,” Pavic said. “We like to trash talk to each other a little bit. I think it’s important to have a good laugh during the day. Even before we started playing together, we’ve known each other for years now. We’ve been good friends off court for a while now, so I think it helps. It helps a lot.”
Mate Pavic and Nikola Mektic” />
Photo Credit: Corinne Dubreuil/ATP Tour
If you follow the pair around for the day, you will notice that they do not take themselves too seriously. Last year in Toronto, the Croatians allowed an ATP camera crew to trail them for a day to gain a look into their lives on the circuit. And one thing that became clear was that they enjoy plenty of banter.
Take for example when they were stretching on the field. Mektic began by hanging out and relaxing before doing more intense stretching later on, and Pavic made sure the cameras caught that moment, joking that his partner was slacking off.
When it came time for their practice later, Mektic was chatting at a table with former partner Alexander Peya instead of heading to the court. Again, Mektic was — in a funny way — on his case. When Pavic went inside to the gym to use the weight machines, Mektic remained outside to stretch.
“Obviously we don’t do the same things. He has his own coach, I have my own coach. We do that part separately,” Mektic said, before cracking a laugh. “There is already too much of seeing him in a day. I’m kidding!”
The pair and their coaches enjoy playing UNO, but they had to add trash talk and a bit of competitive flair to it. The losers had to stand at the shuttle and transportation signs standing still in front of their peers for three and five minutes, respectively. On that day, Mektic finished last (five minutes) and Pavic (three minutes) also was punished.
They both took it in stride, and enjoyed speaking to the camera crew to pass the time. A producer asked Mektic if it was more painful to lose a match on court or in UNO?
“This is much worse!” Mektic said, cracking a laugh.
Mate Pavic at Nitto ATP Finals media day in Turin.” />
Photo Credit: Corinne Dubreuil/ATP Tour
“I think we’ve got a good thing going, all of us. Not just the players, but the whole team, spending a lot of time together,” Pavic said. “So we’re a good crew and I think that helps a lot, also sometimes that you just do a little your own thing so you’re not obviously together all the time.”
Pavic mentioned that some days, they might not even see each other at all. Of course that is rare, but the time away keeps their relationship on and off court fresh, preventing them from burning out as a pair.
“I think we communicate a lot on the court, even more during a match than before the match,” Mektic said. “On the court we talk a lot and we understand each other and we try to find the best solution regarding the situation on the court.”
On court, the righty Mektic is more of a control-oriented player, while Pavic, a lefty, is more dynamic with plenty of power and shotmaking ability.
“We’re both good players. We have different game styles, so that’s something that maybe is helping us out. There are a lot of guys who have similar game type,” Pavic said. “I think we are both very different game-wise, so maybe that’s the thing that separates us a little bit.”
According to Vlad Kaplarevic, Pavic’s coach, it is not just their skills that help them.
“What makes this team work I would say good energy, support and obviously confidence,” Kaplarevic said. “If you are winning a lot of matches, confidence helps a lot… [it has been] a big surprise for everybody, to be honest.”
Both men enjoyed strong partnerships before 2021, with Pavic finishing year-end No. 1 with Bruno Soares and Mektic winning the 2020 Nitto ATP Finals alongside Wesley Koolhof. But they took a risk to join forces and that paid dividends.
“Did I believe that we were going to win all of that? No,” Pavic said. “But I did expect we were going to play well and we were going to be one of the best teams.”
They will hope that remains the case in 2022.