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Joe Salisbury is aiming to win Wimbledon, despite being allergic to grass

There is no ambiguity in the ambitions of Britain’s top-ranked doubles player – it involves Wimbledon and ticking one last box. Only there is a small complication.

“Grass,” says Joe Salisbury. ‘I’m allergic to it. I’ve always had a few allergies – trees, dust, whatever.

‘When I lie down on the grass, I get a skin reaction and it becomes very itchy. It’s not like I’m dying, but I wouldn’t sit on the grass for too long. I’m trying to win Wimbledon for the first time and I’m allergic to grass, I can see why it might sound weird.’

Joe Salisbury (R) is currently half of the world number 1 in men's tennis

Joe Salisbury (R) is currently half of the world number 1 in men’s tennis

Salisbury has his sights set on winning Wimbledon this year in front of his own audience

Salisbury has his sights set on winning Wimbledon this year in front of his own audience

He was never too close to convention, this hidden gem of British sport, nor was he too concerned about obstacles.

That has just been his way in a stealthy and magnificent takeover of one of tennis’s minor disciplines.

To cover a few details, he is the world No. 1 in doubles and a fascinating athlete that some of you may not know.

If you don’t, it’s partly because he prefers it that way, but his wishes are getting harder and harder to grant, having won four Slams in three countries in two years.

This from a 30-year-old Putney lad who nearly gave up as a teenager being consumed by glandular fever, who once made just $13,000 in two seasons as a young pro and knows what it’s like to share small hotel rooms with two other players.

But things change. In 2018, Salisbury was outside the top 100, staying at his sister’s flat in Peckham. In 2022 he has crossed £2million for career earnings and with American Rajeev, Ram is half of the best men’s combo in the game.

Salisbury has revealed he is allergic to grass - the surface on which Wimbledon is played

Salisbury has revealed he is allergic to grass – the surface on which Wimbledon is played

“I went to Portugal for a friend’s wedding a few weeks back after the French Open and was recognized,” he says. “The thing is, that doesn’t really happen to me outside of tennis and I like not being the center of attention.

“I don’t even know why I have a Twitter account (just over 3,000 followers, not updated since 2019).

“That stuff never interested me. It sounds boring, but I always just wanted to focus on my tennis. With more attention and the positive stuff, the nice comments, you might also get more negative feedback and I just don’t want that.

“But Portugal was quite funny. I had been on this trip and we are all at a restaurant in a small town when an Irish couple said they were fans. They asked if I wanted to take a picture with their child – my friends took it all in for me.’

For Salisbury, this is the time of year when his aversions can be put to the test. It’s all about Wimbledon, the BBC, the potential for deep diving in a popular fortnight. By ranking, his chances are better than any other Briton, after a remarkable rise that saw him and Ram win the 2020 Australian Open and the 2021 US Open, and last year alongside Salisbury’s mixed doubles titles at the French Open and US Open. †

Salisbury and Harriet Dart were defeated in the mixed doubles final at Wimbledon last year

Salisbury and Harriet Dart were defeated in the mixed doubles final at Wimbledon last year

The fact that his twin success at the US Open aroused only the faintest of echoes here owes much to what Emma Raducanu accomplished in women’s singles.

His closest miss on the grass was 2021, when Salisbury and Harriet Dart lost the mixed final, meaning Wimbledon is the only Slam he hasn’t won anything from. As a local who first visited the All England Club ‘back before I can remember’, Salisbury is not repressing his intentions for the coming weeks.

“Wimbledon is the biggest goal for me now,” he says. ‘For me it is the biggest, most special tournament. Even before I won one of the others, that would be #1 on my list. There’s no reason we can’t win Wimbledon. It’s definitely the big one now.’

That he is comfortable carrying a target on his back is a sign of progress in more ways than one. On the most basic front, it’s about his rise through the game, which was only announced occasionally before joining forces with Aries in 2019. It was almost coincidental in how that partnership came about.

Salisbury has admitted that he and Rajeev Ram almost went their separate ways

Salisbury has admitted that he and Rajeev Ram almost went their separate ways

“We were close to not playing together,” Salisbury says. “He was number 1 on my list to play with and he had someone he wanted to play with for me, Marcel Granollers.

“They just won a big tournament, but his partner played singles and didn’t want to commit to four years, so Rajeev decided to play with me.

“That was the big factor in everything – he’s been a great partner.”

The second sign of progress comes from how Salisbury has struggled successfully. He admits that landing the number 1 spot in the world in April raised some voices.

However, the pair have now become a formidable partnership on the tennis court

However, the pair have now become a formidable partnership on the tennis court

“It feels more comfortable now,” he says. “But when I knew we were going to number 1, it all felt very strange.

“It was a little awkward because I almost felt like I didn’t quite deserve it. I didn’t feel like I was at the level where I should be number 1.

“I think that’s partly how I am, my personality. I am never satisfied, always looking forward to the next tournament.

“But we’re here because we’ve done well. I’m all starting to feel more at ease there.’

The grass is just another itch to scratch.

Salisbury's completed mixed doubles titles at last year's French Open (above) and US

Salisbury’s completed mixed doubles titles at last year’s French Open (above) and US

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