At the start of the Rolex Paris Masters, Wesley Koolhof knew a semi-final run would be enough to earn him a debut atop the Pepperstone ATP Doubles Rankings. But the 33-year-old didn’t stop there, finishing the week with his seventh title of the 2022 season, all won alongside Neal Skupski.
“It means everything, obviously. I think the first goal you have when you start playing tennis is you want to become World No. 1,” Koolhof said after clinching the milestone achievement on Saturday. “I didn’t know until I opened the [Pepperstone ATP] Live Rankings on Monday, because I saw the Nitto ATP Finals points drop off for Ram and Salisbury. [I] needed to make the semi-finals here [Paris] to be No. 1. It feels great to reach the goal.”
Koolhof is the fourth Dutchman to rank No. 1 individually in the history of the Pepperstone ATP Doubles Rankings, since 1976. He joins Tom Okker (1979), Paul Haarhuis (1994) and Jacco Eltingh (1995) in claiming the honour.
Set to be the top seeds at the Nitto ATP Finals, which begins 13 November, Koolhof and Skupski lead all doubles teams on the ATP Tour this season in wins (54), finals (10) and titles (seven).
“It’s been great,” Koolhof said of the first-year partnership. “We first started playing together in Australia. We actually had a talk here in Bercy last year. I approached Neal [to ask] if he was available to play with next year. I think we just combined well from the first practice on. We’ve done very good, won a lot of matches, a lot of titles. I think it’s very special to share this with Neal.”
The new World No. 1 also paid tribute to other important figures in his tennis career, including coaches, former partner Matwe Middelkoop and girlfriend Julia Goerges, a former WTA star.
“[I’d like to thank] everyone who has been involved in my career. I had so many coaches with the Dutch federation. Switched from singles to doubles in 2016. Then I started with Matwe Middelkoop, so it’s also special to be able to beat him [in the Paris semi-finals] to become No. 1.
“Also Marco Kroes, who has been my coach for the past six or seven years. December of last year I switched to a different team, Rob Morgan, Mariusz Fyrstenberg. I think they’ve done an amazing job together. I’ve improved a lot.
“I’m grateful for everyone — my mom, my girlfriend Julia Goerges. She helped me a lot the past two-and-a-half years. I got all the good things from her career.”
By winning the Paris title — their third ATP Masters 1000 crown of the year (Madrid, Montreal) — Koolhof and Skupski clinched year-end No. 1 in the Pepperstone ATP Doubles Teams Rankings. The pair can now turn its attention to the Nitto ATP Finals, which Koolhof won in 2020 alongside Nikola Mektic.
“We still have Turin,” Koolhof said. “I managed to win that one two years ago. For Neal, it will be his first one. There’s still a lot to play for.”