Neal Skupski achieved a career-high doubles ranking of No. 15 on July 12 this year.

When London hosted the Olympic Games in 2012, Neal Skupski had a front-row seat—from a couch in his living room. His eyes were glued to the television screen whenever Usain Bolt ran, and he followed with the same intensity each time Andy Murray shined for Team Great Britain on Centre Court, a venue Skupski envisioned himself competing inside one day.

The Liverpool native had time on his hands to soak up the Olympic movement, for his pursuit of a professional tennis career was on hiatus due to an injury he sustained at the NCAA Championships against college powerhouse Steve Johnson.

“I still had another semester to do at LSU, so I went back there.” Skupski recalls in a phone interview with TENNIS.com. “I was still getting treatment on my ankle. I didn't need surgery, but it took a bit of time. I was told It probably would have been better to break it [given] the damage I had around the ankle. I finally got back into tennis around October. I hit with the team a little bit and then started to play Futures in January 2013.”

Nine years later, Skupski’s trust in the process, staying true to himself and pure perseverance has paid off in the most rewarding of ways. Now 31 and in the best shape of his life, Skupski is on an Olympic team with the same champion he watched win gold. Less than two weeks ago, it was Skupski who closed out a fortnight on Wimbledon’s illustrious cathedral in grand fashion, capturing the mixed doubles crown with Desirae Krawczyk over fellow Olympian Joe Salisbury and countrywoman Harriet Dart. It was a special moment for Skupski, who relished the opportunity to play for a major title in front of his loved ones.

“You could hear their voices in the crowd cheering along and it gave me added inspiration. They don't really watch tennis that often. It was incredible to see them,” says Skupski. “It hasn't really set in yet that I'm a Grand Slam winner, but it was an unbelievable experience. Afterwards, we had some drinks with Joe, Harriet and Desirae, which was nice. You're very serious on the court, but you can let yourself go with each other off the court and reflect on what's been a good two weeks.”

Skupski and Krawczyk prevailed, 6-2, 7-6 (1), over Dart and Salisbury.

Skupski and Krawczyk prevailed, 6-2, 7-6 (1), over Dart and Salisbury.

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Among those in Skupski’s corner on that fateful Sunday included his two eldest nephews, whose father Ken is an expert in his own right on the grind required to make it to the Grand Slam stage. The first to suit up for LSU, Ken had three ATP doubles titles to his name when Neal was ready to take his shot at chasing similar ambitions. Once the younger Skupski quickly realized his best path was in doubles, Ken didn’t think twice about stepping down to the Futures and Challenger levels to see what the two could accomplish together.

In the span of a year, Neal went from being unranked to finishing 2013 inside the Top 90 of the doubles rankings. Call it sibling protection, call it brotherly love, but Ken’s loyalty during that crucial transition year has never been lost on Neal.

“He basically got me where I am today. Without him, it probably would have taken me two or three years, maybe more, to get to the Top 100,” reflects Skupski, who would ultimately break his Olympic news to Ken after getting the call in Eastbourne last month.

“It was a massive gamble for him. But he always had a massive amount of faith in my game and he saw no one available at the time that was better. It was just a number next to my name. He was in a situation where he was always changing partners. So finding me and me finding him, it makes it extra special that we're brothers.”

This past March, the pair went from a thrilling high to an emotional low in a matter of days. At the ATP 500 event in Acapulco, the Skupskis knocked out three of the top four seeds to lift their biggest team trophy to date. The following weekend, Ken’s right leg began troubling him, the result of a blood clot. Wanting to do well in his absence, Neal joined forces with Dan Evans to reach consecutive Masters 1000 finals in Miami and Monte Carlo.

Skupski’s ability to channel positive energy helped him overcome that adversity, an experience that unknowingly prepared him for another curveball thrown his way just after the conclusion of Wimbledon. Due to reunite with Evans in Tokyo, Skupski will instead play alongside former partner Jamie Murray after a positive COVID-19 test forced Great Britain’s top-ranked singles player to withdraw.

“It's a tough one for Evans because I know he was really looking forward to it. I thought we had a good chance of getting a medal,” says Skupski. “We beat some good teams so it gave us a lot of confidence. We were looking forward to try and emulate the wins in Tokyo from the past.”

Acapulco marked the Skupski brothers' first tour-level triumph since winning Budapest in April 2019.

Acapulco marked the Skupski brothers' first tour-level triumph since winning Budapest in April 2019.

Skupski and Murray first teamed up at the start of the 2019 grass-court season, and like many duos, found themselves navigating a rollercoaster of peaks and valleys. Their highlights included reaching the semifinals of the 2019 US Open and final of ‘Cincinnati in New York’ a year later at Flushing Meadows. Overall, the two went 21-15 in 2020, and the arrangement ended with their first title in Sofia when their opponents, Jurgen Melzer and Edouard Roger-Vasselin, abandoned the championship match after edging out the Brits to clinch the last available ATP Finals berth.

With Skupski, who also played with the left-handed Murray at the 2019 Davis Cup Finals, there’s some unfinished business left on the table.

“I thought we still had more to give in the partnership, but it didn't seem to work out for one reason or another. This is another great opportunity. If someone said, ‘Do you want to go the Olympics with Jamie?’, I would have snatched their hands off,” he admits. “I think our level is right up there with the best in the world if we both put it together. I think sometimes when we have played in the past, one guy had a good day while the other had a bad day.

“We'll go to Tokyo with an open mind and see what happens.”

For any athlete in contention, a medal is the ultimate souvenir to pack away when departing the Japanese capital. Whether that happens for Skupski won’t have an impact on returning to Liverpool empty-handed. After all, he has a favorite uncle status to maintain, with official mascot Miraitowa playing a key role in upholding that title.

“I know he's a blue and white and will go down well with the kids,” the doubles world No. 16 shares. “If I don't bring three back and I bring two back, there are going to be a lot of arguments.”