Take Five: Rajeev Ram ascends to ATP doubles No. 1
Welcome to Take Five, a weekly series on USTA.com recapping five of the biggest stories from American tennis over the last week on the professional tennis circuit. Though he didn't play last week, Rajeev Ram breaks new ground as the lead story this week: At 38, the Indiana native has ascended to world No. 1 in doubles.
Rajeev Ram ascends to doubles world No. 1
He's on top of the world: Though inactive last week, American Rajeev Ram rises to No. 1 in the ATP doubles rankings for the first time in his career this week, less than a month after winning his third career Grand Slam men’s doubles title at the US Open alongside Great Britain’s Joe Salisbury.
Fixed at world No. 2 since April, Ram supplants his doubles partner at the top of the rankings; in the 52-week system, Salisbury dropped 250 points he earned from capturing the 2021 San Diego Open with Neal Skupski this week.
“It’s pretty amazing. I’ve obviously had quite a long career, which I’m grateful for. But it’s been over the past three or four years with Joe that it’s really felt like we’ve been at the top of the game and been contending for all the major titles,” Ram told ATPTour.com's Andrew Eichenholz on achieving the milestone.
“It’s a lot of hard work that a lot of people put in, not just me, to get me to this point.”
Ram is the 57th player to reach No. 1 in ATP doubles rankings history since they were established in 1976, and the 19th American man to top the list. He joins John McEnroe, Stan Smith, Peter Fleming, Robert Seguso, Ken Flach, Jim Grabb, Jim Pugh, Rick Leach, David Pate, Kelly Jones, Richey Reneberg, Patrick Galbraith, Jonathan Stark, Jared Palmer, Alex O’Brien, Donald Johnson and both Bob and Mike Bryan in the acheivement.
At age 38, the University of Illinois alumnus is also the oldest first-time No. 1 in ATP doubles rankings history.
Ram and Salisbury have paired to win three titles so far this season. In addition to the US Open, they also won the Masters 1000 events in Cincinnati and Monte Carlo.
Aleksandar Kovacevic reaches Seoul semifinals in ATP debut
Another former member of the Fighting Illini made noise on the ATP Tour last week: 24-year-old Aleksandar Kovacevic reached his first-ever ATP semifinal in Seoul, South Korea as a lucky loser.
After falling in qualifying, Kovacevic got a second chance when his compatriot Brandon Nakashima withdrew on the back of winning his first title in San Diego. Kovacevic made it count: In his first-ever ATP main-draw match, he upset No. 7 seed Miomir Kecmanovic in straight sets in Round 1, and defeated Tseng Chun-hsin of Chinese Taipei and fellow American Mackenzie McDonald en route to the semifinals.
His run was only stopped by eventual champion Yoshihito Nishioka in his third three-setter in as many rounds, 6-3, 4-6, 6-3.
Kovacevic's run in Seoul was the latest milestone in 2022 for the former All-American and All-Big Ten honoree: He cracked the Top 200 for the first time in late July after finishing as runner-up at the Indy Challenger, and moves up 55 spots as a result of his run in Seoul to a new career-high of No. 167.
Nathaniel Lammons wins doubles in Tel Aviv; Nicole Melichar-Martinez reaches Tallinn final
On Sept. 3, Nathaniel Lammons and his partner Jackson Withrow lost in Round 2 of the US Open men's doubles draw to eventual finalists and No. 2 seeds Neal Skupski and Wesley Koolhof.
Lammons hasn't lost since: After winning the ATP Challenger in Cary, N.C. and the San Diego Open with Withrow, he 29-year-old from Austin, Texas bagged his third straight title—and second at ATP level—last week in Seoul partnering South Africa's Raven Klaasen. The top seeds lost just one set en route to the trophy—in a mammoth 7-6(3), 6-7(4), [10-7] Round 2 win over Belgians Sander Gillé and Joran Vliegen—and topped Nicolas Barrientos and Miguel Angel Reyes-Varela in straight sets for the title.
With the win, Lammons cracks the Top 50 in the ATP doubles rankings for the first time at No. 48.
Meanwhile, at the WTA 250 event in Tallinn, Estonia, Nicole Melichar-Martinez reached her sixth WTA doubles final of the season and first with Germany's Laura Siegemund. The No. 1 seeds were beaten in a 7–5, 4–6, [10–7] championship match by third-seeded Ukrainian twins Lyudmyla Kichenok and Nadiia Kichenok.
Madison Brengle stretches USTA Pro Circuit winning streak to 10
Over the last two weeks, Madison Brengle's been putting on a masterclass on the USTA Pro Circuit. The 32-year-old Delaware native ran her unbeaten run to 10 last week with a triumph at the W60 event in Templeton, Calif. A week prior, she triumphed in Berkley—and came from a set down to beat China's Yuan Yue in the final.
Her effort in Templeton mirrored the one of the week prior; she didn't lose a set to reach the final, and she again cooled off a hot start by her opponent in the final; this week, she dropped the first set against 2021 US Open girls' singles and doubles champion Robin Montgomery but came back for a 4-6, 6-4, 6-2 victory. The win puts Brengle back into the Top 50 of the WTA rankings at No. 48.
Brengle was complimentary of the teenager's effort after the match; Montgomery, who turned 18 last month, saw her summer swing disrupted somewhat due to a wrist injury, but successfully qualified for the main draw before reaching her fourth professional final.
“She’s got just an incredible game,” Brengle told the ITF's Jamie Renton in victory. “She can come forward, she has a great serve, I feel like she’s just going to keep getting better and better.”
In the doubles final, American Sabrina Santamaria partnered Japan's Nao Hibino to victory; the duo beat No. 1 seeds Sophie Chang and Katarzyna Kawa of Poland in the final.
Americans clean up at wheelchair Alabama Open
U.S. wheelchair players had a successful campaign on home soil at the ITF Futures Series Alabama Open over the weekend. In all, American players left with three of the four champions' trophies in the men's and women's open divisions.
In her first professional event, Michelle Wilson of the University of Arizona defeated Avery Camp in an all-American women's singles final, while Maylee Phelps and Lily Lautenschlager, who recently faced each other in the inaugural girls' wheelchair doubles final at the US Open, teamed to win the women's doubles title. The teenagers have partnered to win two professional titles this year.
On the men's side, Jason Keatseangsilp and Conner Stroud teamed to win the doubles title, and Keatseangsilp also finished as the singles runner-up.
Other highlights for Americans around the world last week included:
- Jenson Brooksby also reached the semifinals of the ATP 250 Eugene Korea Open in Seoul.
- Maxime Cressy reached the quarterfinals of the Tel Aviv Watergen Open, an ATP 250 event in Israel eventually won by Novak Djokovic.
- Lauren Davis reached the quarterfinals of the Parma Ladies Open, a WTA 250 event, before losing to eventual champion Mayar Sherif of Egypt.
- Peyton Stearns defeated Clervie Ngounoue in an all-American singles final at the USTA Pro Circuit ITF World Tennis Tour W25 event in Austin, Texas. In doubles, Jamie Loeb partnered Australia's Elysia Bolton to victory over Ashley Lahey and Poland's Martyna Kubka.
- Jessie Aney partnered Czech Anna Siskova to victory in doubles at the ITF World Tennis Tour W25 event in Otocec, Slovenia.