US Open 2015: Jamie Murray closes on doubles crown after going steady

The Scot and the Australian, who first joined forces early in 2013, will play in their second successive Grand Slam final

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The Independent Online

In the merry-go-round world of men’s doubles, a partnership that lasts for more than two years is a rarity, but Jamie Murray and John Peers are proving that sticking together can have its rewards. The Scot and the Australian, who first joined forces early in 2013, will play in their second successive Grand Slam final when they take on the Frenchmen Nicolas Mahut and Pierre-Hugues Herbert here at the US Open.

When they first teamed up Peers was ranked No 78 in the world and Murray  No 76 in doubles. Today they are No 14 and No 15 respectively. They are currently rated the fifth-best men’s partnership in the world according to the “Race for London”, which lists pairs according to ranking points won this year as they attempt to qualify for the eight-team Barclays ATP World Tour Finals in November. If they win here they will be the second best, behind only the Bryan brothers.

Asked why he thought their results had improved so much this year, Murray said: “A number of things, including the fact that this is our third year together. I think it’s pretty long-term considering a lot of teams are chopping and changing a lot.

“I think we’ve both improved aspects of our game that needed to get  better. I think I’m definitely serving better than I ever have in terms of speed and also hitting my spots better. I saw a stat the other week that said we were No 2 or No 3 in the year in terms of service holds for a team. We were at 92 or 93 per cent. It’s like Ivo Karlovic. If he’s holding serve that many times, he’s always going to have chances to win matches. So we’re certainly doing that.

“I think we’ve both improved on return, putting a lot more balls in court, and I think once the ball is in play we’re better than a lot of teams because we’ve got that understanding because we’ve played so many matches together. We both know what each other’s trying to do on the court and I think that’s paid off.”

Their togetherness was evident in their semi-final victory over the Americans Steve Johnson and Sam Querrey. Murray was clearly supportive when Peers was broken when serving for the match, though it took a piece of individual brilliance by the Scot to keep them in the contest when match-point down as he showed lightning-quick reactions to hit a winner with a close-range volley.

For perhaps the first time in his career Murray is the senior player in an established partnership, with his 27-year-old partner two years his junior. Said Peers: “He’s been on tour more years than I have, but I feel that as a team we’ve grown together more than as individuals. We’ve both grown in understanding the team and what we both need to do.”

The partnership has thrived despite the fact that the two men live on opposite sides of the planet. After today Murray will fly back to Glasgow for Britain’s Davis Cup semi-final against Australia, for which his regular partner has not been selected despite being his country’s highest-ranked doubles player. Peers will instead return home to Melbourne.

“When you play that much with each other, it’s good and bad,” Peers said. “You go off, do your own thing and then you come back, and you feel refreshed. It’s like a new  honeymoon again.”

Peers is the one who gets to spend less time at home. “We’ll train in London when we’re not at tournaments,” Murray said. “Especially in tournaments in Europe over the last three months, he’s been based there. So we train together when we’re not  at events.”