Jurgen Melzer prepares to blaze a new trail for this generation

Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Email

WATCH—Match point from Jurgen Melzer's upset win over Milos Raonic at Erste Bank Open:

 

The fairytale ending to his singles career didn’t come for Jurgen Melzer in Vienna this week, as the veteran was forced to abandon his second-round encounter against Kevin Anderson due to health issues.

That wasn’t the last that will be seen of the Austrian, though, as he prepares for his next act as a doubles specialist. And by doing so, he’ll be entering some rarefied air.

Only nine players have achieved a Top 10 ranking in singles and doubles over the past 20 years, according to the ATP tour, with Melzer, Jack Sock and Fernando Verdasco the only active ones.

Melzer, though, will be the first among that elite group to leave singles behind and focus exclusively on team play. It’s a solid move for the veteran, who has won two men’s Grand Slam titles with Philipp Petzschner, but in recent years has been troubled by elbow injuries that have forced him off the court.

Over the course of his career, Melzer has reached 30 finals in doubles, winning 13 titles. In fact, his first title on the main tour came in doubles with countryman Julian Knowle at the St. Petersburg Open in 2005. The Austrian duo won in Morocco a few months later in 2006, before Melzer finally broke through on his own by taking the Romanian Open in September for his first title in four finals.

It would be three years before he captured his second singles title at the Vienna Open, after reaching multiple finals and winning more doubles tournaments.  Possessing an all-court game that allowed him to compete on any surface, Melzer contested championship matches under every playing condition, but had yet to experience a major breakthrough during the latter half of the 2000s.

That all changed in the first year of the new decade.

At the 2010 French Open, Melzer, the 22nd seed, reached his first major semifinal with wins over David Ferrer and Novak Djokovic before falling to Rafael Nadal. He made it through to the second week at a Slam again just a few weeks later by advancing to the fourth round at Wimbledon, where he would win the doubles with Petzschner. By the end of the year, he won his third career singles title with a repeat performance in Vienna and cracked the Top 10 in doubles.

Melzer’s singles breakthrough to the loftiest of positions came a few months later after he advanced to the fourth round of the Australian Open. More success came at the year’s last major when he and Petzschner claimed their second Grand Slam together at the US Open.

Melzer’s ascent stalled the next couple of years as he won three titles in singles and doubles between 2012 and 2014, with his most recent title coming once again in Vienna—in doubles this time, with Petzschner—in ’14.

Shoulder and elbow injuries have led to multiple starts and stops the past few seasons, but now the 37-year-old will be preparing for a somewhat-less-taxing role in doubles. In his prime, he was considered among the elite in the game and as the discipline has seen older players continue to have success, Melzer—provided he’s healthy—could challenge for some of the sport’s top prizes if the partnership is the right fit, too.

And if he does manage to go back to his Slam-winning ways, perhaps it’s a route that Verdasco and Sock will be willing to take on as they enter the later stages of their respective careers.


*This Week on Tennis Channel PLUS 10/21*

ATP Vienna & Basel (10/22 –10/28)
- Tennis Channel PLUS has every match live, First Round to the Final. Watch live coverage from 4 courts on Tennis Channel PLUS beginning Monday 10/22 at 7:00AM ET.

USTA Macon (10/23 – 10/28)
- Tennis Channel PLUS has first ball to last ball action live! Coverage begins Tuesday, October 23 at 10:00AM ET

Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Email