When Julian Knowle won the first Austrian Grand Slam title in doubles at the US Open alongside Sweden’s Simon Aspelin in 2007, the Vorarlberg native kicked off a successful doubles era in domestic tennis that was not thought possible at the time .
With Jürgen Melzer, Oliver Marach and Alexander Peya, three more ÖTV aces major titles in doubles and mixed were brought in. In addition, another Austrian made it into the top 50 in the world with Philipp Oswald.
Of the red-white-red doubles legends, only 36-year-old Oswald is now active. However, Alexander Erler and Lucas Miedler have already proven in the past few months that there is no need to worry about the future.
Last weekend, the ÖTV duo got the decisive point in the Davis Cup international match against Pakistan, before that the two celebrated two Challenger tournament victories in a row (Como and Tulln).
“The last few weeks have been world class”
“Of course, the last few weeks were world class. We didn’t do much wrong. I hope that we will carry this momentum with us for the coming weeks,” Miedler said happily in an interview LAOLA1 about the current form high.
It was already titles three and four this season, with which Erler was able to work his way up to 71st place in the ATP ranking and Miedler to 82nd place.
But now it’s time to take the next step up the world rankings. Because to do this, you need points in the big ATP tournaments (250, 500, 1000).
Switch to ATP tournaments necessary
This week Erler/Miedler are at the start of the Challenger in Sibiu, Romania. A tournament victory would bring 80 ATP points – not enough to seriously improve in the world rankings, as the example of Erler shows: the Tyrolean would only have 50 net points left because another tournament with 30 points would fall out of the ranking . However, Erler is still almost 400 points short of the top 50.
“If we win a Challenger tournament, that brings us 80 points and that doesn’t really bring us anything anymore. We have to go to the higher tournaments and score points there,” Miedler explains the current situation.
Difficult: The two are not in the main draw with their combined ranking at every ATP tournament. That’s why Erler/Miedler can “only” be seen at Challenger level this week. “We were first out in Metz. We would have gotten in in San Diego, but it would have been a lot of work to fly to America for a tournament like this. Especially with a view to the three ATP tournaments, where we will be fixed in the coming weeks come in.”
And these three ATP 250 tournaments are on the program from next Monday: Erler/Miedler will be at the start in Tel Aviv next week, like Dominic Thiem and Novak Djokovic.
Peya: “You need big results in smaller ATP events”
A good performance in these tournaments would be extremely important for both of them, as ex-doubles specialist Alexander Peya explains: “You have to make sure that you can establish yourself at the front. Grand Slams are just not enough because of their ranking. They need big results at these smaller ATP events or maybe at the 500 in Vienna so that they can climb a little further up. With Challenger tournaments they hardly get any further.”
The fact that the two can also perform at the big ATP tournaments was already proven last year on their debut together: at that time they sensationally won the tournament at the Generali Open in Kitzbühel.
“Shortly before we called each other, who should play with whom and then we said that we’d just try it together,” Erler recalls with a smile. “And then we suddenly win the title.”
Little contact in youth
Before that, the two ÖTV aces didn’t know each other very well, despite having the same citizenship and only a year’s age difference.
“We met when we were 15 or 16,” Erler recalls. “But we never had anything to do with each other,” adds Miedler with a smile. The two young boys met three or four times back then. Until there was a successful reunion in Kitzbühel in 2021. Erler: “It’s actually crazy how things have developed over the last year.”
Did the two get their inspiration from previous double stars like Knowle, Marach or Peya?
Miedler says: “Of course I’ve noticed the many successes in doubles, but you can’t plan something like that. Especially not that things continue to go so well.”
The Lower Austrian emphasizes that a year ago he didn’t necessarily have it on his radar to concentrate more and more on the doubles. “Once you’ve won the points, you obviously don’t want to just let them go to waste. If you can then follow in such footsteps as in Austria, where there have always been good doubles players recently, that’s of course an honour. “
Junior win at the Australian Open
Whereby Miedler in no way came to the double like the virgin to the child. After all, the Tullner already won the junior doubles competition at the Australian Open in Melbourne in 2014. “I’ve already had a long double story in my career,” grins the Tullner, who is now on the tour for more than a year with a standard partner for the first time.
Since both he and Erler come from the individual, this of course also caused some adjustments in everyday tour life.
“Of course that’s also new for us,” Miedler admits. “A lot of people underestimate the fact that you travel with a doubles partner all the time. Of course you have to get used to certain things. But we’re getting on really well now. Hopefully we’ll spend more days together this year.”
“Everyone has their own ticks. I might have a little more than him,” grins Erler, who, according to Miedler, is said to have passed some of them on to his partner. “There are certain routines, sometimes you have to follow along. Of course everyone has their own peculiarities. But we’re having a lot of fun now.”
“Sometimes we see each other too much, of course”
A good understanding off the pitch is also extremely important for a successful doubles duo. After all, there are hardly any breaks when the stays at the tournaments almost always last until the weekend.
“Of course we sometimes see each other too much,” smiles Miedler. “But that’s normal when you travel together every week. Then there are just a few points of friction and that’s a good thing. But I think we’re getting on with it quite well now.”
Single career not yet given up
Of course, the two have not yet completely given up their dream of a successful individual career.
“I think we still have time. We still don’t want to give up the singles, but we’re now in the top 100 in doubles, which wasn’t the case last year. Even with the Kitzbühel victory we were away then still far away. Top 200 won’t do you any good in doubles,” said Miedler.
“Now we’re quite good in doubles, the singles ranking has stayed the same. Of course, when we play Challenger, we still play singles. But if we get into an ATP tournament, then it’s clear that we’ll play doubles there, because it’s just about more. Once we’re so good in doubles that it can no longer be reconciled, then you have to change it anyway.”
Miedler is currently number 319 in the world, Erler is in position 782. “If we play in an ATP tournament, I can mostly play qualification there and at least have a good chance of getting in there. Then you just play singles Qualification and double main draw. But then you’re still not a doubles player because you also play singles.”
Both he and Erler pitched their training tents with Wolfgang Thiem in Traiskirchen. In the few weeks when he is not traveling, Erler often stays in his home country of Tyrol.
In training, the main focus is on net and positional play. “We still have a lot of potential there,” Erler is convinced. “There are always little things that can be improved.”
Olympic dream for 2024
Of course, a dream would also be to take part in the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris together. A well-established Austrian double duo could even figure out a chance for a medal.
“Of course it helps if you have a well-established double,” says Miedler. “We’ve always had good doubles players, but they often didn’t play together. Of course, they also performed well at the end of the day because they’re just so good. But it’s probably even more valuable when a duo like that works together all year plays and is attuned to each other.”
“But that’s still a long way to go,” says Miedler and Erler jokes: “We’ll have to get on our nerves for another two years.”
Miedler: “But of course the Olympics are a dream. Until then there are enough other things that we have to do together and then maybe we can look at the Olympics.”