MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Filip Polasek has had a weekend he’ll never forget, winning his first Grand Slam title a day after his second daughter was born.
Little wonder the 35-year-old Slovakian let out a triumphant roar and fell into Croatian partner Ivan Dodig’s arms after the pair beat defending champions Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury 6-3, 6-4 on Sunday in the Australian Open men’s doubles final.
Back and left leg injuries forced Polasek to retire in 2013 and he was sidelined from the men’s tour for five years, confined to coaching junior players, until he was convinced to make a comeback in the middle of 2018.
“I never really tried to come back. It was an accident, a nice one. It’s just happened somehow. A friend of mine convinced me to play club matches in Germany,” he said. “Then I realized I don’t have the problems that I had before.”
He said he was hitting with American doubles star Mike Bryan around the same time and “he was kind of making fun I should come back.”
“I was like, ‘no way.’ Then a few things put together, I felt healthy,” he added. “I said I’ll try to come back.”
He took a month off coaching, without pay. It has finally paid off.
In his first Grand Slam final, Polasek was the best player on the court with brilliant returns complementing a steady serve to help set up the victory.
He’s the second Slovakian player to win a major title after four-time Grand Slam mixed doubles champion Daniela Hantuchova.
Polasek had little sleep on Saturday night before his partner delivered their second daughter at a hospital near Bratislava about midnight Friday in Melbourne time.
“It’s quite sad,” to miss the birth, he said, “but to end it up this way here, it’s very nice.
“I have the pictures and videos. That night I didn’t have much sleep, I have to say. The good thing was we had another day extra and I can sleep well before the final.”
For Dodig it was a second major title, after the French Open doubles with Marcelo Melo in 2015.
Polasek and Dodig had 15 breakpoint opportunities and, significantly, took the two that counted on Salisbury’s serve in the eighth game of the first set and seventh game of the second.
The Croatia-Slovak pair were taken to deuce only once, so never felt the pressure that constantly built when Salisbury and Ram stepped up to serve.
Polasek served out the opening set to love and, fittingly, had that honor to finish off the victory, sealing it with the second match point when a Salisbury lob landed over the baseline.
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