By Blair Henley | Thursday, May 29, 2014
Jurgen and Iveta Melzer weren't yet dating when they won the mixed doubles championship at Wimbledon in 2011, but Jurgen admits they "got along really well."
(Photo Credit: Getty / Julian Finney)
Thanks to Caroline Wozniacki and her golfer fiancé Rory McIlroy’s highly publicized split days before the 2014 French Open, we were reminded of just how fickle relationships can be, especially in the rarified air of professional athlete land.
But Jurgen Melzer and his wife Iveta Benesova Melzer are proof that love can indeed flourish on the tennis court. The two met on tour and married in the fall of 2012 after less than a year of dating. When they set foot on the red clay at Roland Garros for their mixed doubles match Friday, they will tread where very few married couples have gone before.
To their credit, the duo has some experience competing together. Melzer and Benesova captured the Wimbledon mixed doubles title in 2011, though they weren't yet dating at the time. By the end of the year, they were well on their way to holy matrimony.
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After speaking with both of them separately, it was clear these two are still in the honeymoon stage. Both sat beaming when asked to discuss their spouse. So what is the secret to their success?
Iveta, 31, says her husband has speedy crisis management skills and checks his ego at the door. “Every time there is a conflict, he always likes to talk about it in a second. We solve everything at the beginning. I think it works, but I cannot start the talk first. I can be very stubborn, so I’m happy he is this way.”
Jurgen, 33, thinks their shared experience as high-level tennis players is helpful, especially when things aren’t going in his favor.
“Being a sportsman, there’s a lot of ups and downs,” said the current world No. 56. “Having someone who understands that and knows how to deal with certain situations is very good. Most of the time it’s being quiet, that’s what helps the most.”
He also rejects the idea that male athletes see serious relationships as a distraction. He views love as an asset, despite what it means on the tennis court.
“There comes a certain point where you say, ‘I’m looking for something really serious.’ I think you cannot plan it. That person walks into your life, and you’re head over heels in love. Yeah, that’s how it happened for us.”
Iveta, who officially changed her last name to Melzer soon after the wedding, says that life on tour doesn’t lend itself to traditional gender roles. Her husband can both cook and do laundry, responsibilities they share equally. Jurgen’s most impressive talent, however, may be wedding planning. Iveta wasn't interested in organizing a large event, so her fiancé took the lead.
“He said, “Okay, I’m going to be in charge, so you don’t have to stress,” she explained proudly. “I just picked the dress, the colors and the theme of the wedding, and it was unreal what he did.”
Though the Melzers are excited to take their partnership to the tennis court for the first time since they tied the knot (Iveta sat out 2013 with a shoulder injury), mixed doubles and domestic partnerships have historically been a risky combination. There’s a reason why country club tennis pros call it “mixed troubles.”
Former world No. 21 John Lloyd played exhibition matches with Chris Evert during their eight-year marriage, but they never competed on tour. In fact, he strongly discouraged playing doubles with a significant other.
“I really wouldn’t advise anyone to play mixed doubles with their spouse, especially if both of you are competitive,” he said in an interview with the Tennis Space. “I think it’s best, if you have a choice, to play with someone you’re not emotionally involved with.”
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To be sure, the list of romantically linked former doubles pairings is an ode to relationships past: Lleyton Hewitt and Kim Clijsters, Flavia Pennetta and Carlos Moya, Jimmy Connors and Chris Evert, Petra Kvitova and Radek Stepanek, just to name a few.
Perhaps we shouldn’t tell that to French couple Alize Lim and Jeremy Chardy, who are the only other known couple playing in the Roland Garros mixed doubles draw this year. Of course, if they are looking to Iveta and Jurgen Melzer for inspiration, they might consider mixed doubles at a Grand Slam as a step toward the altar.
ESPN reported this week that noted paramours Grigor Dimitrov and Maria Sharapova stay in separate rooms during joint tournaments, a strategy that wouldn’t fly in the Melzer household.
“You are married so everything is normal at a tournament,” Jurgen said, laughing. “I feel comfortable next to her in bed. [Getting two rooms] wouldn’t come to my mind, and I think she would look at me like I’m a ghost [if I suggested that].”
On the court, he avoids strange looks from his wife by choosing his words carefully.
“You have to watch what you say because it can backfire when you enter the room after the match,” he said. “But almost every time, we have fun when we play. That’s the most important thing. You don’t play mixed doubles for money or points. You just try to enjoy the time. That’s how I see it.”
As solid as this couple seems, there is one thing Iveta may need to work on – and it has nothing to do with her skill as a mixed doubles partner.
“Yeah, she never answers her phone,” Jurgen said with a smile. “This is something that drives me nuts.”