Britain was assured of success in the Mixed Doubles Final at Wimbledon when three of the four players on Centre Court were of this land, and it was Neil Skupski with his American partner Desirae Krawczyk who took the spoils when they defeated Joe Salisbury & Harriet Dart, 6-2 7-6(1) in the last match of The Championships 2021.
I think it was our best match of the tournament. It was a good time to produce it. Never easy to play against fellow Brits, especially for Desirae, playing her partner Joe. But Desirae is on fire in mixed doubles now. Neil Skupski
“It’s an amazing feeling to win a title at Wimbledon,” Skupski said. “You grow up watching it on the TV, you just dream of playing here one day.
“To win a title with Desirae is incredible.
“It’s never easy playing finals, especially against two Brits, but it makes it extra special.”
For Krawczyk, it was her second Grand Slam title in a row, having won in Paris a month ago with Salisbury.
The American had not realised they might play Salisbury & Dart until quite late in the week, but was just delighted to add Wimbledon to her French Open crown.
“It’s great for both of us to do well,” said an emotional Krawczyk, who is 27-years old and hails from California.
Skupski is a doubles specialist from Liverpool, and this was his first Grand Slam title at the age of 31.
“I can’t believe it, it’s an amazing feeling to win a title at Wimbledon,” said Skupski, who has reached two ATP Masters 1000 doubles finals this season alongside Dan Evans.
Skupski’s previous best performances at a Grand Slam came when he reached the semi-final of the US Open in 2019 with Jamie Murray, and the same stage of the Australian Open in the mixed doubles the same year, with María José Martínez Sánchez.
Both Skupski and Salisbury have moved past Jamie Murray in the British doubles pecking order, claiming spots in the Great Britain team for the Tokyo Olympics, where Skupski will partner Dan Evans and Salisbury will link up with Andy Murray in the men’s doubles.
Skupski is 18th in the ATP doubles rankings, Salisbury seven places higher.
Seeded 7th, Skupski & Krawczyk took the first set comfortably with two breaks but then Salisbury & Dart found their rhythm in the second, although they were dominated by their opponents in the tiebreak, who clinched the title when a mis-hit return from Skupski to a serve from Salisbury that floated over the head of Dart at the net.
Neither pair could forge ahead during the opening passage of play as the first 4 games were shared, before Skupski & Krawczyk motored away by reeling off 4 in succession.
Ahead by a set, the British-American team then had 4 opportunities to break early in the second, when they put the Dart serve under extreme pressure in the 3rd game, but the 24-year-old held firm from 15-40 to level at 2 games apiece.
Salisbury & Dart had a chance in the 12th game on the Krawczyk serve when the American lefty fell behind 5-6, 0-30, but Salisbury, the 2020 Australian Open doubles champion, missed a short forehand before some big hitting from the American made it 30-all, and a swinging serve sealed the game and forced the tiebreak.
Skupski & Krawczyk immediately grabbed the initiative by winning the opening point against serve and quickly moved ahead 3-0.
A crisp Skupski interception meant they switched ends with a 5-1 advantage and, when a Salisbury forehand flew long on the next point, the No 7 seeds held 5 Championship points.
As Skupski’s decisive winning return dropped beyond the reach of their opponents, victory was sealed and the final ball of a unique and memorable 2021 Championships had been struck.
“I just can’t believe it, I’m just shocked,” was Krawczyk’s assessment as she held back the tears. “I never imagined I would win back-to-back Grand Slam mixed titles. It’s just incredible.”
Salisbury & Dart were hoping to become the first all-British pair to win the mixed doubles event at Wimbledon since Jo Durie and Jeremy Bates in 1987.
It was a double disappointment for Salisbury, who reached the semi-finals of the men’s doubles last week with the American Rajeev Ram, while Skupski was knocked out in the second round with his brother Ken.
“It’s amazing,” Salisbury said. “I have been playing doubles for eight years now and sometimes you doubt whether you are good enough to be at this level, but you have just got to keep believing, keep trying.
“It just shows that anything is possible in this sport, and hopefully it’s not the last time I’m in a Grand Slam final. I look forward to what the future holds.”
The Mixed Doubles final started just under an hour and a half before the affair across town at Wembley got under way, and the evacuation from Centre Court was more pronounced that usual.
The match, however, was wrapped up in an hour 21 minutes, just about in time for everyone to get to the nearest pub for the football.
“I think we finished with 15 minutes to go or 20 minutes to go [until kick-off],” said Skupski. “Perfect timing for everyone. Everyone’s happy.”
Krawczyk’s performance was brilliant, directing the ball into spaces or awkward places with great skill.
“I think it was our best match of the tournament,” Skupski said. “It was a good time to produce it.
“Never easy to play against fellow Brits, especially for Desirae, playing her partner Joe. But Desirae is on fire in mixed doubles now.”
Salisbury was asked whether he and Krawczyk would be reunited at the US Open and replied: “Well the plan was for us to play together, but maybe she’ll dump me for Neal now!”
Krawczyk responded: “I’ll have to think about it. No, I’m just kidding! We’re definitely playing together.
“Winning my first Grand Slam, you obviously never forget it, but a few weeks after that, we are winning Wimbledon,” Krawczyk continued in the champions’ post-match press conference.
“It’s Wimbledon, and it’s just something you look forward to. It’s my favourite tournament.
“[It’s] something I never thought would happen, but obviously you dream about playing on Centre Court, and that was my first feeling of that.
“Then to win, you know, a mixed doubles with Neal, was just even better.”
Skupski & Krawczyk were sublime on serve, winning 80 percent of points behind their deliveries and never faced a break point all day as they moved to victory, rarely tested on delivery.