Rajeev Ram made history on Monday when he became the oldest first-time World No. 1 in Pepperstone ATP Doubles Rankings history. The American climbed from World No. 2, swapping places with partner Joe Salisbury of Great Britain.
“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. “It’s a lot of hard work that a lot of people put in, not just me, to get me to this point.”
The 38-year-old has been World No. 2 since 4 April, and he climbed to World No. 1 when Salisbury dropped 250 points he earned from capturing the San Diego Open title last season with Neal Skupski. Ram positioned himself to earn the achievement when he partnered Salisbury to their second consecutive US Open title last month.
Although Ram “used to shy away” from record-related talk, he appreciates making the top of the men’s doubles mountain aged 38. The previous-oldest first-time World No. 1 was the first doubles World No. 1: Bob Hewitt, who was 36 in 1976.
“I certainly appreciate that now because I feel like it shows the fact that you can wait long. As long as you’re resilient [and] persist, things can happen, even much later,” Ram said. “Everyone is on their own path and maybe it’s even a little bit sweeter if it takes a little bit longer.”
Joe Salisbury/Rajeev Ram” />
Ram and Salisbury at this year’s US Open. Photo: Elsa/Getty Images.
The American played college tennis at the University of Illinois, where in 2003 the team won the national title and Ram claimed double glory with Brian Wilson. He then enjoyed a successful singles career in which he climbed to a career-high World No. 56 in 2016 and lifted two ATP Tour trophies (both in Newport).
But in 2017, Ram shifted his focus to doubles and has not looked back since.
“I felt like I restarted my career in 2017 when I started playing doubles. I don’t feel like it’s been that long in the sense of it feels like I’ve just really played doubles for about five years,” Ram said. “It feels a little different than it would have [if] I played doubles my whole career and all of a sudden at 38 I got to this point.
“I needed to focus every bit of attention I had to maximize my skill in doubles, I felt like. That’s sort of what I did. To have a steady partner, to have a group around us that we all believe in and we trust, I think these results are a [result] of that.”
Both Ram and Salisbury were clear that they have always put the team above the individual in their partnership. They have won eight tour-level titles together—including three Grand Slam crowns—and qualified for the Nitto ATP Finals in four consecutive seasons.
“These braces are great, but I think our focus was to be the No. 1 team,” Ram said. “Now the fact that we both will [have been] the No. 1 player is just a testament to the team effort that we’ve put in.”
Ram had a hunch things would go well with Salisbury after their first training block together at the end of 2018 in Florida, and that has proven prophetic. Salisbury had plenty of praise for his partner.
“Massive congratulations to Rajeev for being the World No. 1. I’m very happy for him and it’s definitely well deserved. He definitely feels right that he’s No. 1 now. I’m very happy to be moving back to be No. 2,” Salisbury said. “Obviously it’s a huge team effort, we’re really proud of what we’ve achieved. To be the No. 1 team at the moment, I think it’s definitely right that we share being No. 1. I’ve enjoyed having it while I have, but I’m really happy for him. He’s been an incredible partner the whole time we’ve been playing together.
“[Even though] we think more about the team than the individual braces, it’s definitely nice that he has the No. 1 ranking now.”
Mike Bryan, who was doubles World No. 1 for a record 506 weeks, congratulated his countryman on ascending to the top spot.
“Rajeev really deserves this honor and it’s great to see him having so much success in his late 30s,” Bryan told ATPTour.com. “He’s always been one of the most talented and dangerous doubles players on Tour, but to reach the top of the mountain this late in his career is amazing. It’s a huge testament to his dedication and hard work. Congratulations RR!”
Although he is excited to reach World No. 1, Ram is hungry to continue honing his craft and to work with Salisbury to remain the top team in the sport.
“It’s just the idea of trying to maintain and keep improving my own game, because everyone else is going to improve as well. No one is just going to sit there, so obviously if we don’t get better, we’re going to fall behind,” Ram said. “It’s just constant motivation to keep pushing as hard as we can to go as far as we can go.”
Did You Know?
Ram is the 57th player and 18th American to climb to No. 1 in the Pepperstone ATP Doubles Rankings.