They were beaten 4-6, 7-5, 7-6 in the first round of the French Open by Matteo Berrettini and Lorenzo Sonego yesterday and that two hours and ten minutes of effort brought to an end the most successful partnership in Murray’s career.
From here on, the Scot will play with Neal Skupski and Soares will partner Mate Pavic from Croatia.
Murray would not reveal exactly what sparked the split but he was keen to point out that Soares is still one his best friends on the tour. It was just that on a professional level, it was time for a change.
“We had an amazing three and a half years together,” Murray said, “a lot of great memories, won a lot of big tournaments, had a lot of fun on the way. Bruno’s one of my best friends on the tour and we had a lot of fun together but, for me, it felt like it was time for something different and that’s life.”
Murray called Skupski to suggest joining forces on a full-time basis a couple of weeks ago during the Rome tournament and, of course, he had to have the awkward conversation with Soares. But if telling the Brazilian that he was now officially dumped, it was as nothing compared to the conversation Skupski had to have with his regular partner – his brother Ken.
“It’s not an easy thing to do, but it just had to be done, didn’t it?” Murray said. “We talked, and that’s that. I’think I’ll keep [the reason for the split] to myself. I don’t think I need to make it public. We have spoken but I don’t feel I should tell that to the world. I don’t think that is important.
“Maybe it was something I was feeling for a little while. It felt like now is the right time to change it up and do something different. Whether or not that will be the right decision, time will tell.”
Soares took it well enough – getting the push from your partner is just another occupational hazard for a doubles player – and he bore no grudges.
“I feel like we’re good friends, it’s our job,” Soares said. “The best for him is to change, with a different partner, and you’ve got to respect that. I don’t take it personally. If you are not happy with something you have got to try something different, change it, do something. If he feels that way, then it’s fine.”
The Skupski brothers had always pledged to stay loyal to their family ties and not look for any other partners. But when Murray called Neal, it was an offer he simply could not refuse.
“I spoke to Jamie,” Neal said. “I was actually watching a match at the time and I got a text and I didn’t know what to think really. I kind of panicked. With Facetime, I spoke to my parents, spoke to my dad – he has a big influence on our tennis – and I literally didn’t know what to do. I spoke to Ken and Ken was all for it. He said it wasn’t something you can turn down, life-changing hopefully.”
Murray and Skupski will team up at the Fever Tree Championships and move on to Wimbledon from there. Skupski will rejoin his brother for one last event at the Nature Valley International but from then until the end of the season, he will be in harness exclusively with Murray.
“Neal’s a good player,” Murray said. “He’s been having a lot of good results the last year and a half. There’s no guarantees of everything. It’s like starting over again and trying to find a way that works for us to be successful.”