Ratiwatana Twins: 'The Bryan brothers' of the Challenger circuit

The Ratiwatana twins, Sanchai and Sonchat Ratiwatana, who have won a Challenger title each year since their debut in 2003, are completing in the Chennai Open Challengers.

Ratiwatana Sanchai (left) and Ratiwatana Sonchat Chennai Open Challenger ATP Tennis Tournament

Twin brothers Ratiwatana Sanchai (left) and Ratiwatana Sonchat of Thailand during the practise session at the Chennai Open Challenger ATP Tennis Tournament on Monday.   -  R. Ragu

They're known as the Bryan Brothers of the Challengers circuit and boy, have they lived up to the tag. The Ratiwatana twins, Sanchai and Sonchat Ratiwatana, have won a Challenger title each year since their debut in 2003, and recently clinched a record 46th title at the Hua Hin open in Thailand last November.

“It's a great feeling to hold the record. We are really happy with it and are now looking to step up and win an ATP event,” said Sonchat, the elder of the two brothers.

The bespectacled Sanchai is quick to add, “We did not expect the 46th title. I had hurt my foot a week prior to the tournament and we had only two days of practice. We picked up confidence along the way and maybe because it was the last tournament of the year, we pushed ourselves and got the win.”

The Thai duo surpassed the previous record of 37 titles held by South Africa's Rik De Voest with their 38th title in Yokohama in 2015.   

Their illustrious doubles career has now spread over 15 years and the twins began wreaking havoc on the court together since the age of 10, having split only on three occasions so far.

Speaking on their strengths as a pair, Sanchai noted, “Our forehands and our agility are our strengths. Our serves are a little weak but we have a good first volley and quick reflexes. The fact that we have been playing together for so long is our major strength.”

The Ratiwatanas have a steep combined ranking of 207 and will aim to pull their rankings down in the coming year to in order to play in the bigger tournaments. “Most tournaments today have very high cut-offs now, such as a combined ranking of 140 or 120. We need to be at least in the top 70s (individually) to ensure that we have a strong chance of playing tour events and Grand Slams,” remarked Sonchat.

Call for more Challengers

The brothers have fond memories of India, having made their first ITF Futures final in New Delhi in 2001 and the duo came back to lift their first Challenger title in Dharwad in 2003. The pair also successfully combined to defeat Marcos Baghdatis and Marc Gicquel to clinch the Chennai Open in 2008.

Commenting on Indian tennis, Sonchat felt there is an absolute lack of Challenger events in India. “It's sad because Indian tennis is a lot better than Thai tennis but the number of Challengers here is lesser. Based on the players you have, you need more Challengers. Sumit Nagal and Yuki Bhambri can break into the top with these Challengers,” he noted.

“We have four Challengers but that number is not useful for Thai tennis. Why have big tournaments for no players? The tournaments can be put to better use in India. It will be more beneficial for them to compete at home and have more tournaments at home,” he added.

The Ratiwatanas may not have achieved the success that the Bryans have on the ATP Tour, but in the Challenger circuit, they are most certainly a force to reckon with.