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Leagues: UEFA Champions League

Regret? Skupski prioritises French Open over Champions League ticket

Paris (AFP) – Britain’s Neal Skupski will put his French Open doubles title dreams on hold for a few hours Saturday in the hope of watching his beloved Liverpool defeat Real Madrid in the Champions League final in Paris.

But Skupski, winner of a tour-leading four titles this year with Dutch partner Wesley Koolhof, says he reluctantly passed on the offer of a ticket to the game at the Stade de France.

“I did have an opportunity to go but I turned it down, I’m probably going to regret that,” Skupski told AFP.

The 32-year-old is through to the third round of the men’s doubles and won his opening match in the mixed doubles Friday with Desirae Krawczyk, the American he teamed up with to triumph at Wimbledon last year.

“It looks like I’m going to be playing two matches on Sunday, so a late night on Saturday is not going to be ideal for me. I’ll be ready to hopefully watch the Reds win their seventh European title,” he said.

“I won’t be going to any fan zone, I’m most likely going to be watching it by myself in my hotel room. I actually did that when they beat Tottenham in 2019 in the final.”

Skupski recalled visiting a bar with 15 or so Liverpool fans on the tennis circuit in Paris on the eve of the 2018 French Open to watch the Reds’ 3-1 loss to Real Madrid in that season’s Champions League final.

“We’ve got to try and get some revenge against them,” said Skupski, admitting he was “devastated” by the shoulder injury that forced Mohamed Salah off in the first half after a challenge by Sergio Ramos.

“It’s going to be a close game. Real Madrid are certainly a force to be reckoned with and you can never underestimate them. Karim Benzema looks like he’s on a mission. 

“I think Liverpool might just sneak it. If I had to put a guess I’d go 3-2 liverpool, I’d go for a lot of goals.” 

Skupski’s father Ken was a reserve goalkeeper for Aston Villa and Stoke City, but he said tennis was always likely his calling having first held a racquet aged three.

After playing at college level in the US, he played with older brother Ken for several years on tour until the latter developed a blood clot in his leg after flying home in March 2021 following their win at the Mexican Open.

“It was an amazing thing to travel the world with my brother and play week in, week out. I think it’s a bit easier to play with your brother because you can be a little bit more open,” said Skupski.

He appears to have struck up a formidable pairing though with Koolhof.

“We’re just going with the flow and we’re working things out,” said Skupski, acknowledging a successful start to their partnership was crucial. 

“Other teams start to fear you a little bit.”

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