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.”