The defending champions edged a dramatic encounter with John Isner and Diego Schwartzman at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia on Sunday afternoon in Rome, clinching their fourth ATP Masters 1000 title together with a 6-2, 6-7(6) 12-10 championship match victory.
Mektic and Pavic earned nine tour-level titles last season on their way to finishing 2021 as the year-end No. 1 team in the Pepperstone ATP Doubles Team Rankings. They were yet to win a title in 2022 prior to arriving in Rome, but looked at home once again at the Foro Italico as they defended their 2021 crown for the loss of just one set all week.
“It’s big, we kind of started the year a little bit slow,” said Pavic after the match. “We were struggling, we were a little unlucky. It was not ideal.
“Obviously the first title of the year, it means a lot to gain some confidence. It’s been a while. We won a lot of tournaments last year, so always to win the title is a pretty good achievement, especially as it’s a Masters 1000 title.”
“It means so much,” added Mektic. “I mean, 11-9 [in the Match Tie-break], I don’t have to talk too much about it. Each point is so important, so I’m so, so happy that we made it this time.”
In contrast to their experienced opponents, Isner and Schwartzman were partnering for the first time in Rome. The duo became affectionately known as #Isnerman by fans, and the American-Argentine pair rallied well after an underwhelming first-set performance in Sunday’s final. They were inches from clinching the title themselves in the Match Tie-break, with a Schwartzman forehand just missing the line when they led 10/9.
A one-sided opening set saw Schwartzman and Isner broken once each as Mektic and Pavic started quickly. The Croatians were energetic at the net and solid from the baseline as Isner and Schwartzman struggled to settle into the encounter on Pietrangeli.
After a tighter second set was dominated by serve, Mektic and Pavic were on the brink of the title at 6/5 in the tie-break. After letting that championship point slip, however, Schwartzman raised his game at the perfect moment. The Argentine found a pair of inspired forehand winners to force a Match Tie-break as he and Isner became the only team to win a set against Mektic and Pavic across the Croatians’ back-to-back title runs.
Both teams let slip a first match point in the Match Tie-break before Mektic and Pavic found a way to rise above the tension to convert their third of the match, with their relentless solid net play helping them to a one-hour, 56-minute victory.
Isner was aiming for a third Masters 1000 of the year, having won the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells with countryman Jack Sock and the Miami Open presented by Itau with Hubert Hurkacz. For Schwartzman, the hunt for a maiden tour-level doubles crown goes on, with the Argentine now 0-5 in doubles finals.