Solid as can be: Nikola Mektic & Mate Pavic in sync like a veteran duo

Solid as can be: Nikola Mektic & Mate Pavic in sync like a veteran duo

Joining forces for the first time this season, the Croatian tandem captured its fourth title of the year Saturday at the Miami Open after defeating Dan Evans and Neal Skupski, 6-4, 6-4.

Editor's Note: Mektic and Pavic went on to lift their fourth trophy this season Saturday when they defeated Dan Evans and Neal Skupski, 6-4, 6-4, in Miami—moving to 25-3 overall in 2021.

“We’ve been on a great roll.”

That’s Nikola Mektic putting it lightly to say the least. He and countryman Mate Pavic reached their fifth final of 2021 on Thursday when they defeated Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury, 6-3, 7-6 (5), at the Miami Open.

In getting through to their first ATP Masters 1000 title match together, the No. 2 seeds have now won 24 of 27 matches on the year. Set to face Great Britain's Dan Evans and Neal Skupski in Saturday's final, Mektic and Pavic are aiming to add Miami to earlier season triumphs at a pair of 250-level events in Antalya and Melbourne to go with their 500-level trophy from Rotterdam. caught up with the Croatians to gain deeper insight on the terrific beginning to their partnership.

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Another tournament, another final in Miami. Are you two feeling as good as you look?

Mektic: Yes. Here so far, we haven't lost a set, but there are some very close sets. [Thursday], for example, it was a very tough and close match… could have gone either way. We won in two luckily, but yeah, not so dominant like the result is showing. We're playing good and we are confident going into the finals.

I’m sure you expected these types of results, but did you expect this consistent success so early on?

Pavic: Well, we know each other for years already. We've been practicing together two, three years back home. We never played an official match before this year. Maybe we didn’t expect that it’s going to be that good, but we we knew we can both play well. We did with the different partners in the past, so there was no reason why we wouldn't play good together. We're on a run playing great, so we're happy about it.

Sometimes when two players with strong results link up, it doesn’t necessarily translate into a winning recipe. Why have the two of you been able to come together so brilliantly?

Mektic: I just think we're two very good players, that's why everything functions. Of course, you can never know how it's going to work, especially in the beginning. But I think the more important thing than getting to know each other, is knowing the game. And I think we both know the game pretty well. We think the same way. I don't think we have many flaws.

Why is your partner a great fit for your game, and what do you bring to the table in making the combination work?

Mektic: I think Mate has some really big weapons. He's probably, in my opinion, one of the best servers [and] one of the best returners in doubles. And everything else is very, very solid. I think my strength is that I’m pretty solid in everything. The characteristics I named, I think that's a formula for our success. I don't see why it wouldn't work.

Pavic: I agree with Nikola. Like he said, I think I bring some weapons, big serve, big returns and Nikola is just very solid all over the place with all the strokes. And he knows how to play the doubles game, how to position himself. What he said in the strategy of the game, we think in the same way, which helps a lot.

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How have COVID-19 protocols and tighter restrictions on and off site impacted the time you share together as teammates and friends?

Mektic: I think even before, we would spend a lot of time together at the tournaments, just now it's in a different environment. Now we're going to spend time in the room and on the balcony. We used to spend time in restaurants and somewhere away from the hotel or on site. So this is a little bit different. Like Mate said, we know each other pretty well for such a long time—we were good friends. So in this case, the situation doesn't change the way or the amount of time we spend together.

After what happened last year, with all eight teams in contention for year-end No. 1, which two or three pairs thus far do you think are your biggest threat to finish 2021 on top?

Pavic: Well, I think Dodig and Polasek are playing pretty well. Obviously, they grabbed that Grand Slam title where they defeated us in the semis. They played a great match. Ram and Salisbury also, they made a lot of points this year already, [reaching] the final in Australia. So I think three of us already made a little gap between the rest of the teams, but I think everybody's good on this level.

Take an example of the Colombians (Cabal and Farah). They were struggling a little bit, but they won Dubai last week. So it takes only one good week for all of these teams to gain some confidence, and then the picture changes. We played three, four matches against Chardy and Martin. I think they are a good team and obviously Chardy is playing a lot more doubles. It's going to be close in the end.

Finally, have you settled on a team name, or is the jury still out?

Pavic: Not yet, no. We didn't think about it so we still don't have it. We’re open to ideas.

Perhaps we’ll throw a poll up on Tennis Channel’s social media to help you out with this. Thank you for your time.