Tennis Tuesday is back! New York Empire content series has returned featuring some of the game’s greats and New York’s finest tennis coaches, administrators, and fans. To help kick off Tennis Tuesday, we spoke with Empire veteran, Neal Skupski who had an incredible year on the ATP Tour.
1. This year you won your first ATP doubles title with your brother Ken in Montpellier. You just won your first ATP Tour 500 title. What does winning these titles mean to you?
- Winning my first ATP 250 earlier this year was an amazing feeling. To do it with my brother makes that moment extra special. We have played on tour together more than 5 years and that ATP 250 title had eluded us, so to finally get over the line was a big relief off our backs after coming close a couple times previously. A few weeks ago, I won my first ATP 500 title with Joe Salisbury in Vienna, Austria and that was a dream week. We played so well all week and beat some of the best teams in the world, which just makes you think that you belong at the top of the game. It’s given me a lot of confidence in my game, and I will go into next year with a career-high ranking.
2. What are some tips that help transition playing with new partners each year?
- Playing doubles can be tough, especially if you change partners quite a lot. I have played with 14 different partners this season, which has been difficult at times, but the main thing you have to do is have very good communication. You need to make sure how to get the best out of your partner before stepping out on the court because you want to have a clear mind when competing.
3. Is it easy to transition from being on the ATP tour to playing WTT? What is your biggest tip you can give to a doubles player playing in a quick game format like WTT?
- I have played WTT a few years now, and I find it pretty easy to transition from the ATP tour; however, in the beginning I did find it more challenging. WTT is quite fast-paced both on and off the court. You must adapt to playing almost every night as well as late night dinners and a little less sleep, while being ready to compete at a high level for your team to get the win.
- The best advice I can provide for a doubles player coming (who is going) to compete in WTT, is to make sure they are fully warmed-up and ready to go because the doubles matches go by so quickly. Speed is the key to success.
4. How was it playing with Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez, a player new to WTT?
- Playing with Maria this year was a fantastic experience. Having the opportunity to play mixed with one of the world’s best is only going to improve my tennis knowledge on court. She had a fantastic season winning female rookie of the year and settled very fast. Maria is very calm when hitting her strokes and feisty when competing, so she was perfect for the format. I hope I will get the opportunity to play with her again because I thought we gelled really well and complimented each other’s games.
5. What are your plans for the 2019 ATP World Tour season?
- I have only just finished the 2018 season, but I am already looking forward to starting off 2019. I will be looking to progress my ranking even more and competing at the Masters 1000 on a regular basis after getting a taste of it with Empire teammate J. Isner in Paris. I will compete on tour next year with my brother Ken and try to pick up some more titles along the way. One main goal of mine going into next season is to come back to New York for the Empire and getting us back on track. Everyone at the Empire franchise works so hard to get us to the top and winning the King Trophy is very much achievable. Go Empire!