A Balancing Act That Works
by Roger Gatchalian | 12.01.2010
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Lukasz Kubot, Oliver Marach
© Getty Images

After a breakthrough year in 2009, Lukasz Kubot and Oliver Marach are defying conventional wisdom that suggests that specialisation is the key to doubles success.

Backing up after a successful season is always the big challenge for a doubles team, and such is the predicament of Lukasz Kubot and Oliver Marach, ranked No. 12 and No. 13, respectively, on the 2010 ATP Doubles Rankings.

Although Kubot, from Poland, and Marach, a native Austrian, played their first full season together only last year, they teamed up for the first time at an ATP Challenger event in San Luis Potosi, Mexico in 2005.

"We signed in at the last minute and we won the tournament," Kubot said. "And since then we were trying to play more Challengers together but we never focused for the whole season.

"Last year we decided to play more doubles, all tournaments, and we did it and we finished [at the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals] in London so it was great and hopefully this year we can continue to have some success."

While their year ended with qualification in London, the duo started in equally impressive fashion by reaching the Australian Open semi-finals, upsetting No. 1 seeds Daniel Nestor and Nenad Zimonjic in the second round.

"We were one of the last teams that got into the tournament," said Marach, who ranked No. 72 at the time, while Kubot was No. 69. "We got to the semi-finals and suddenly we were Top 30 in the world as a team so we could play main draw at all the tournaments. We had a perfect start to the season."

"Balancing his singles and doubles commitments is something Kubot gladly does, but recognises the impact it has on his doubles partner"

While they'd won eight ATP Challenger titles as a team between 2005 and 2008, their first at the elite ATP World Tour level came last April in Casablanca, followed by Belgrade in May and Vienna in October, which clinched their ticket for London.

Despite posting a 2-1 match record in the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals, Kubot and Marach narrowly missed out on a semi-final berth. Nonetheless, it was an amazing experience for the pair.

"The venue, the most amazing organisation, we had an unbelievable hotel, access to all the sightseeing, everything," Marach said. "We were the newest team there and it was our first time to be in the Finals. It was an unbelievable achievement for both of us; it was our first year playing on the Tour for a full year so we were very happy to be there."

Having both started 2009 ranked well outside the Top 50, Kubot, aged 27, and Marach, 29, reached career-highs of No. 11 and No. 12 respectively in early November.

Kubot, Marach, LondonSo what's the secret to their success?

"I don't know if you can tell this to our opponents!" Kubot joked. "But we are very good friends, on the court and also off the court. I think this is the key, I would say. We respect each other a lot, we talk to each other even about situations in our private lives."

One thing the duo is willing to divulge is its unique on-court communication. As is often the case with doubles teams comprising players from different countries, a common language needs to be established. Or in the case of Kubot and Marach, languages.

Marach explains: "We have English and German. We mix it up - sometimes we have a sentence with English and German. It's pretty funny but Lukasz practised for two years in Austria so German works very well also."

For Kubot it's not only his doubles game that's flourishing. He became the first Polish man in 26 years to reach an ATP World Tour singles final when, as a lucky loser, he finished runner-up to Novak Djokovic at the Serbia Open in Belgrade. Finishing 2009 at No. 101 in South African Airways ATP Rankings, Kubot narrowly missed becoming the first Polish player to crack the year-end Top 100 since Wojtek Fibak (No. 62) in 1985. He qualified for the singles main draw seven times during the year.

After a quarter-final finish in Doha to start the 2010 season, Kubot reached a career-high singles ranking of No. 88. There is no other Top 100-ranked singles player who also featured in the Top 10 of the 2009 ATP Doubles Teams Race.

"For Oliver it's not that easy because he always has to be ready and understand that I'm trying to play singles"

Balancing his singles and doubles commitments is something Kubot gladly does, but recognises the impact it has on his doubles partner.

The issue is not insignificant. Daniel Nestor implored his partner, Nenad Zimonjic, to give up his singles career to concentrate on doubles. Since making that sacrifice, Nestor and Zimonjic have, along with the Bryan brothers, been the dominant teams of the past two years, claiming the 2008 ATP World Tour Champion title and winning back-to-back Wimbledon crowns. Lukas Dlouhy won Roland Garros and the US Open with Leander Paes last year when he put singles on the backburner, but has indicated he would like to resurrect his singles career in 2010.

"Singles helps me for playing doubles and doubles helps me for playing singles," Kubot observed. "For me it's perfect that I can play singles and doubles.

Kubot, Marach, Melbourne"For Oliver it's not that easy because he always has to be ready and understand that I'm trying to play singles [as well as doubles] so for him it's tougher to handle this."

Outside of the doubles court, things are also looking up for both men. Marach had double cause for celebration in 2009 as he got married to Jesse, a Panamanian, in his hometown of Graz last July.

While Marach doesn't travel full-time with his wife, Jesse comes to some events and it also makes his time spent at home more special.

"I would say she travelled most of the time last year," Marach said. "This year she will also come to some tournaments. It's nice - I'm a very family guy. I like to be with my wife as much as possible but for her to travel all the time - you cannot do it always.

"That's part of the job - you have to deal with being apart. I'm very happy that I'm married - we live also in Panama part of the year. For me, it's very nice, I have to say."

With so much achieved in the past year, what does this dynamic duo wish for in 2010?

"For us the goal is to be healthy and to play well in the big tournaments," Kubot said. "It would be nice to finish Top 10 and it would be very good to end up in London again."

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