In the sporting orbit if Wimbledon’s Centre Court is the middle of the universe then Court 8 is the last stop before outer space.
And yet it was here that the highest ranked British player in the world – and best hope for home success at this year’s Championships – started his SW19 campaign, 24 hours after the exits of Emma Raducanu and Andy Murray.-
Joe Salisbury and American partner Rajeev Ram are the top seeds in the men’s doubles and brushed aside Daniel Altmaier and Carlos Taberner in straight sets 6-3 7-6 7-6.
Salisbury has won four Grand Slam doubles titles in the last two years but has never been beyond the semi-finals here, perhaps because he is allergic to grass, surely the best sporting sensitivity since the Olympic long jumper brought out in a nasty rash by sand.
It’s only four years since the 30-year old, living off his overdraft, was sleeping at his sister’s flat in Peckham during the fortnight.
He’s now made nearly £3 million in prize money from his partnership with Ram, with career highlights wins in the 2020 Australian Open and the 2021 US Open, plus mixed doubles titles last year at Roland Garros and Flushing Meadows.
“I’m getting recognised a bit more but still not too much,” said Salisbury.
“I’ve felt a bit more attention in the last few months, especially since we’ve become the world number one. There’s just a bit more pressure and expectation.
“People want to beat the top seeds and perhaps they play us with a bit more freedom because the pressure is usually on me and Rajeev.
“It was good to come through some tie breaks and some closer moments, we had set points against us in that last set but we found a way to win.
“We’d have liked to have played better, instead of kicking on from the first set it went the opposite way. I thought we were too comfortable because we were in control of the match and you can’t do that at this level.
“We’ve got better at winning matches when we aren’t playing well, you can’t be on top of your game every day. The best of five set format at Wimbledon means the best teams usually do win, you have the time to find a way.”
Salisbury acknowledges the absence of a Wimbledon title is nagging at him, last year he lost in the final of mixed event with Harriet Dart. You can have success around the world but winning at home changes everything for a British tennis player.
“I’ve been coming here for as long as I can remember, there’s no point playing down expectations – this is my biggest goal,” he added.
“I know I can win a Grand Slam because I’ve done it four times – but this is the biggest tournament, the most special. This is number one on the list.”
Salisbury is not the only seeded Brit in the men’s doubles draw, former world number one Jamie Murray, Neal Skupski and Lloyd Glasspool, all with their partners, are among the contenders.
“It feels great to have these players around us, it’s no coincidence we are all up there at the same time,” added Salisbury.
“We all inspire and motivate each other and want each other to do well, except when we are playing each other.”
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PHOTO CAPTION: Joe Salisbury is the world men’s doubles number one and the highest ranked Brit at Wimbledon (Reuters via Beat Media Group subscription)