The right way to go, Divij

AFTER WINNING JUST ONE MATCH IN THE FIRST TWO WEEKS, DIVIJ SHARAN SHOWED EXEMPLARY FITNESS AND GRIT TO MASTER THE FIELD.-SANDEEP SAXENA

The Indian players, with the exception of Divij Sharan, failed to capitalise on the final Satellite circuit to win huge ATP points, writes Kamesh Srinivasan.

It was the last Satellite tennis circuit in India and Divij Sharan, playing on the Delhi Lawn Tennis Association courts where he had grown up as a player, made the most of it to provide a solid platform for his career. His brilliant performance saw him win a couple of titles, including the Masters, in August.

Since the International Tennis Federation (ITF) had decided not to conduct the four-week Satellite tournaments from 2007, it was the last chance for the players to win huge ATP points, which are otherwise difficult to garner on the professional tour.

After winning just one match in the first two weeks, Divij, 20, showed exemplary fitness and grit to master the field. He beat Pakistan's Davis Cup player and the eventual champion of the Satellite circuit, Aqeel Khan twice, including in the Masters final.

Divij, ranked world No. 5 in junior doubles, finally got the recognition he deserved. He has been working hard to bolster his game. In January, he employed Birbal Wadhera as his coach to work on his game and overall physical fitness.

It was a good investment for Divij, even though the results were not forthcoming in the first few months when the two travelled together to different tournaments around the world.

The Satellite circuit proved to be invaluable for Divij, who picked up 36 ATP points, including four bonus points for finishing runner-up, to add to the 13 ATP points he already had for a ranking of 866.

Divij may have stolen the thunder in the second half, but it was Aqeel who emerged the best player of the circuit. The 26-year-old Pakistani, who stretched Leander Paes to five sets in the deciding reverse singles of the Davis Cup tie against India in April, had no trouble in topping the Satellite circuit to pocket 43 ATP points. The fact that he had only eight ATP points in his collection for a ranking of 1008, and that he had failed to qualify for the main draw of two Futures tournaments in Thailand prior to the Indian circuit, clearly underlined the utility of the Satellite circuit for the fringe players.

However, in the case of the Indian players, barring Divij, and to an extent Vijay Kannan and Aditya Madkekar, the rest failed to capitalise on the last golden opportunity they had. Former national champion, Vijay Kannan picked up 17 ATP points, while Madkekar garnered 14.

Ashutosh Singh crumbled at the crunch a couple of times, but otherwise had a smooth game that it was a shame that he ended up with only nine ATP points. So did the left-hander Pathanjali Ravishankar.

Navdeep Singh showed some spark in the end, but was unable to do justice to his potential as he could win only eight ATP points. He was one of those players who had everything, except perhaps the hunger to excel.

Youngsters Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan and Sriram Balaji were able to make some impact, but they too failed to capitalise on their chances. The well-built Vishnu Vardhan showed positive attitude, but still was nowhere near his best. He took only six ATP points from the circuit.

Vivek Shokeen was a big disappointment. He started the circuit as the top seed and finished with a mere six ATP points. The 19-year-old Delhi lad simply lacked focus.

Perhaps the coaches, Gajendra Singh and T. Chandrasekaran, have not been able to drive the right approach in the ward.

Vivek had entered the semi-finals of two Futures tournaments and had beaten Karan Rastogi, which seemed to justify his talent. However, his game hit a low in the next seven weeks of tournament play, including three Futures in Thailand where he won just one match.

Perhaps the effort of Divij, who showed great discipline and work ethic to go beyond his limitations, would provide the inspiration for Vivek Shokeen and company.

THE RESULTS All finals

Masters: Divij Sharan bt Aqeel Khan (Pak) 7-5, 6-4; Doubles: Aqeel Khan and Punna Vishal bt Divij Sharan and Navdeep Singh 6-3, 6-4.

Third leg: Divij Sharan bt Vijay Kannan 7-5, 6-3; Doubles: Mustafa Ghouse and Pathanjali Ravishankar bt Ashutosh Singh and Vijay Kannan 6-3, 1-6, 6-3.

Second leg: Aqeel Khan bt Pathanjali Ravishankar 7-6 (7), 6-4;

Doubles: Vijay Kannan and Ashutosh Singh bt Divij Sharan and Navdeep Singh 7-5, 6-4.

First leg: Yuri Bezeruk (Aus) bt Aqeel Khan 7-6 (7), 6-2; Doubles: Mustafa Ghouse and Pathanjali Ravishankar bt Divij Sharan and Navdeep Singh 6-2, 4-6, 6-4.