Alongside his partner Ivan Dodig, Marcelo Melo won the French Open in 2015. After a sensational final against the Bryan brothers (6/7 7/6, 7/5), the man from Belo Horizonte became the first Brazilian to win Roland-Garros after the legendary Gustavo Kuerten. He takes us on a tour about the biggest win of his career, the Brazilian passion about Paris, and “Guga”.
Marcelo Melo: "The connection we, Brazilians, have with Roland-Garros is special"
Marcelo, can you tell us a little bit more about your success at Roland-Garros in 2015? What do you remember of that day?
To win the French Open was really special for me. And obviously for Ivan (Dodig) as well. In Brazil, we have a very good connection with France, and Roland-Garros. Oh course, everybody remembers “Guga”. He won three times and the crowd loved him there. So for me, to become the first Brazilian to win the double tournament in Paris, with “Guga” watching, it was just amazing. I mean… I couldn’t ask for more. I was so, so happy. With Ivan, we had opportunity to win in Australia, but it wouldn’t have been the same. As I said, the connection we, Brazilians, have with Paris is special. Everybody wants to win Roland-Garros. It was the perfect time, the perfect moment, and the perfect place.
"French Open, Bryan brothers, "Guga" within the crowd... it was like a combo!"
How do you explain this connection between Brazil and the French Open?
You know, in my country, 95% of the courts are clay courts. We grew up playing on clay, we play most of our tournaments on this surface. And when we see for the first time a Grand slam, this is Roland-Garros. So, I guess this is the way of thinking of Brazilians… The vast majority of Brazilians prefers clay and the look forward playing tournament on clay. So French Open is the big time in the year.
In 2015, you played an amazing match against the Bryan brothers. They led one set one break and somehow, you did manage to come back. How did you feel on the court?
This is one thing I will always remember. To beat the Bryans in the final… Everybody knows they are the best team ever. Well, you cannot say forever, of course. But they have thousand victories as a team, something I just cannot imagine to do. So to beat them is kind of combo (laugh). French Open, Bryan brothers, “Guga” within the crowd… I couldn’t ask for more. We had the break down in the second set but we manage to fight until the last point. I think that’s why we ultimately won the match. I heard from many top players and from legends of our sport that they saw the highest level of tennis possible during this final. It was an unbelievable match with unbelievable points. So, very special, as I said.
How do you play doubles on clay surface?
Tennis is totally different on clay. Games are longer, harder, and you cannot go to the net easy. You have to adapt.
"Paris is the best place to win a tournament"
You mentioned Gustavo Kuerten. How deep did he influence Brazilian tennis? Did you play against him?
“Guga” is someone really special in Brazil. Everybody knows him. He is a really a cool and nice guy. He always tries to help people and to be positive. I play with him on a Challenger, and I play against him once at the US Open (first round, in 2007). There’s a very good link between us.
After you victory in the “French”, you said he is an inspiration for you.
Yeah, and he still is. For me and for many Brazilians players. I mean, I was with him when he practiced very hard to come back from his lap injury. It was really inspiring to help him. He is doing a lot of things for the juniors. We hope he will continue to do that, and maybe to do it for professionals. Because, he has so much to offer.
You reached the first place at the ATP, you won your favorite Grand Slam... What do you want to do now?
Why not try to win another Grand slam! Next year, we look forward to play good tennis on great courts. Obviously, I will love to win another Grand Slam. And why not in Paris? This would be magical, because this is the best place to win a tournament.
Dodig, Melo... and a special guest who won three Musketeer's cups!