When it was announced that the BNP Paribas Open would not be held as scheduled due to COVID-19 concerns, Lukasz Kubot returned home to Poland fairly quickly. It is two and a half months later and Marcelo Melo, his doubles partner, still doesn't know when they'll see each other again.
“Doubles of course is like a marriage, so sometimes it’s good to have a little break,” Melo told ATPTour.com. “Of course it’s not necessary, at least between me and Lukasz… I don’t know when we’re going to see each other again. Of course it depends on when tournaments will come back and where we can practise, but sometimes it’s good for the doubles [players].”
Kubot and Melo have qualified for three consecutive Nitto ATP Finals together, and they have lifted 14 tour-level trophies as a team. Spending months apart is certainly not the norm, but they have maintained contact during the suspension of play.
“We have a group chat with our team, so we keep in touch there. Of course we talk one, two times a week, because at this time there are not so many things to talk about,” Melo said. “Normally we always talk about the schedule, practice, this and that. Of course we ask each other how everyone is doing, et cetera, so we keep in touch that way.”
Typically, doubles partners don’t go more than a few weeks without seeing each other, so it’s easier to appreciate one another during this time apart.
“Kubi is a very nice guy. Kubi is always positive. He always wants to go practise. He brings such a good energy,” Melo said. “We can miss the good energy from such a good guy.”
Melo stayed in Indian Wells at first, before going to Florida for almost two months to quarantine with close friend Alexander Zverev. About a week ago, he returned home to Belo Horizonte, Brazil, where he plans to train with fellow doubles star Bruno Soares when allowed to do so.
“We were very lucky to be there,” Melo said. “Of course we need to see how we’re going to manage [in Brazil], but it’s always good to be back home.”
[TENNIS AT HOME]
The 36-year-old Melo enjoyed spending an extended period of time with Zverev, who is 23. Despite the age gap, when they compete at the same event, they always are attached at the hip.
“He’s a very nice guy to hang out with. His family is very nice, his team is very nice, so I get along with them,” Melo said.
The friends only played doubles together once, at 2017 Shenzhen. Melo thinks it would be fun to compete together again when tournaments resume.
Who would be the team leader?
“This is not even a question. Of course, I would be the boss!” Melo said, cracking a laugh. “He’s not going to accept it, for sure. He’s going to say he wants to be the boss. In singles of course it’s going to be [him], but in doubles he needs to follow my rules.”.readfullarticle