Wesley Koolhoff joins a distinguished list. He is the fourth Dutch male tennis player to hold the world number one ranking after Tom Ocker, Paul Haarhuis and Jaco Elding. Among the women, Betty Stowe was the only winner.
“Being number 1 in the world is a dream. That means everything to us,” Koolhoff (33) said after reaching the Masters final in Paris on Saturday, knowing he and his British friend Neil Skupski (32) had “achieved one of the goals we set out in January”. A day later, the two battled it out in the final. Won, good for a seventh tournament win in 2022.
On Monday, his name topped the world rankings for the first time in his career, followed by Skupski, his regular partner since earlier this year. Although Koolhoff himself does not distinguish between the two classifications, the result is a weighted average of the last 52 weeks.
“I think we’ve played better since the start of the year,” said the son of former soccer international Juri Koolhoff, who died in 2019. “From Australia to here, we’ve held back. We’ve got one more week, so let’s continue this in Turin.” Koolhoff is referring to the ATP Finals, which he says is the unofficial World Cup of last season’s top eight pairs.
‘With this success, he fulfills an exemplary function’
“It’s amazing that Wesley won,” exults Jacco Elding, who is now technical and commercial director at the Dutch Tennis Association. “This is not only fantastic for him, but also an inspiration for Dutch tennis. With this victory, he fulfills an exemplary function, showing that it is still possible to be the best as a Dutchman.
Elding achieved that status in the mid-1990s alongside Paul Haarhuis, the current captain of the Davis Cup team. They then feuded for five years with the ‘Woodies’, Australians Mark Woodford and Todd Woodbridge.
According to Haarhuis, the magic of the number 1 is in its symbolism. “Every time you take a plane ride and look down at Earth, you can say, ‘Nobody’s as good as me.’ Elding admits: “It’s said as a joke, but it feels like it. First place isn’t a fluke, but the sum of consistently performing at a high level.
Twins are a specialty
In Tom Ocker’s time, as well as in Haarhuis and Elding’s time, singles were paired with doubles. “It’s special now”, says Oker, who has no special memory of his high rank because ‘the dual ranking was not renewed in the 1970s’. “Success is profitable, increasing competition and industrialization.”
Elding: “Due to the lack of well-known names, twins may now enjoy less prestige, but that is unfair”. Something Haarhuis agrees with: “Don’t forget that tennis is a global sport. That is what makes this achievement so beautiful and unique. Wesley should be incredibly proud of himself.
It is better to anticipate than to react
Koolhoff owes his success in part to statistics. Thanks to his cooperation with Skupski, he can use the English Federation’s colon database, for example, you can see where the opponents are working at critical moments. This makes it easier to ‘read’ the competition, which is an important advantage when it comes to reflexes. “It’s better to hope than not,” Koolhoff said in an interview this summer NRC.
Haarhuis believes this milestone will not lead to saturation at Koolhof. “The No. 1 position includes a Grand Slam title,” said the six-time former pro himself. “Weasley doesn’t have it yet. So let that be the target for 2023.
Men’s tennis has made a resurgence in the Netherlands
Dutch top tennis has been in the doldrums in recent years, but There is hope. At least for the men playing for the Davis Cup next week.
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