11:05 AM GMT November 06, 2019
London could be twinned with Cali, a Colombian city south-west of the capital Bogota. You can’t tell the story of modern Colombian tennis – and all its “craziness”, noise and emotion – without regular references to London. This city has become as central to Colombian tennis history as Cali, where Juan Sebastian Cabal was born and raised, and where Robert Farah grew up.
It was in London, just four months ago, that Cabal and Farah made history by becoming the first Colombians to land a Grand Slam men’s doubles title. “For Colombia, that was huge – we won Wimbledon for Colombia,” Cabal said of that “crazy” victory on Centre Court that also propelled them to joint No. 1 in the ATP Doubles Rankings. That was no fluke: at the end of the summer, they won a second major at the US Open in New York. “Everything that’s happening, it’s all very crazy. Colombia expressed its love for us; they showered us with love,” Cabal said.
And this week they are back in London, attempting to become the first Colombian team to win the doubles title at the Nitto ATP Finals, a tournament which started almost half a century ago, in Tokyo in 1970. “This tournament is like the cherry on top. It’s the Disney World of tennis, it’s a unique event,” said Cabal. “Believe me when I say we’ll do everything in our power to claim this title.”
Even before hitting a ball in London, Cabal and Farah have already secured the year-end No. 1 ATP Doubles Team Ranking for the first time. You might say that the pair – who last year became the first Colombians to feature in this tournament, reaching the semi-finals – are also representing an entire continent. They are the only South American team to have qualified for this tournament since it moved to London in 2009. So far, the only South American champions have been in singles: Argentina’s Guillermo Vilas was victorious in 1974, while Brazil’s Gustavo Kuerten won in 2000 and Argentina’s David Nalbandian took the title in 2005. Once again, Cabal and Farah find themselves playing for history in London, thousands of miles from where they learnt to grip and swing a racquet.
Cabal and Farah are united by much more than a flag and a passport. Aside from American identical twins Bob and Mike Bryan, who have been together since the womb, you won’t find a double team with a closer bond than Cabal and Farah, who have been friends for the best part of 30 years. “My brother from another mother,” is how Farah describes Cabal, and that togetherness helped them to victory in a Wimbledon final against Frenchmen Nicolas Mahut and Edouard Roger-Vasselin that lasted almost five hours.
In Farah’s analysis, he brings the power while Cabal has “the touch, the magic in his hands”, and that combination has brought them titles this season on the clay of Barcelona and Rome, as well as on the grass of Eastbourne and Wimbledon, and the US Open hard courts. Going into this week, they had won their last 10 matches in England, and their only defeat in the country this season was in the first round at The Queen’s Club in London. But that result needs some explanation – they lost that match to the returning Andy Murray, who was making his first appearance since his hip operation, and Feliciano Lopez.
The 2019 Nitto ATP Finals will be held at The O2 in London from 10-17 November. Buy Your Tickets