The Indian men’s doubles scene, in the last two decades, has been dominated by the trio of Mahesh Bhupathi, Leander Paes and Rohan Bopanna. Still, Divij Sharan has quietly carved out a place for himself.
In the latest ATP doubles rankings released on Monday, he had risen to 38, one place above Bopanna to become the highest-ranked Indian doubles player.
It’s true that Indian doubles is under transition, with Bhupathi no longer in the fray, Paes in the twilight of his career and Bopanna closer to the finish than the start. But there is no denying the 32-year-old’s achievement.
“It feels pretty amazing,” Divij told Sportstar . “Everyone wants to be up there and it's not easy coming from India where we have had legends like Mahesh and Leander who have been world no.1 and Rohan, who I think has been as high as No.3. So it’s a great feeling.”
Except for one ATP Challenger trophy in January, Divij has no titles to show in 2018. But a string of good results, which included the run to the Wimbledon quarterfinals in the company of New Zealand’s Artem Sitak, has ensured that after having broken into the top 50 in November last year, he hasn’t dropped out of it. In the week after Wimbledon, he even got to his career-best ranking of 36.
“It has been different as I have played the bigger tournaments. A lot of 250s, a few 500s and one 1000 and all the slams. The best players play all these. It is not easy to win a tournament. Of course, it is the goal. Maybe I would have liked to win a couple of 250s at least. But I had pretty consistent results.”
“It has been a very positive year. I have again reached my career-best ranking. Wimbledon quarters was my best result at a Major and then there was an Asian Games gold medal. It gives me more motivation to keep working hard. The effort I put in is paying off.”
A steady partner
The partnership with Sitak has been central to this. After having played with 11 different partners in the first six months of the year, finding a settled combination with the Kiwi has given him a lot of peace, he said.
“It helps to have a steady partner. You can continuously work on the team instead of winning the match individually with your doubles skills. We have spent a lot of time on and off the court, trying to get the team stronger.”
“That has worked for us and for sure we look a much better team in comparison with when we started. That Wimbledon quarterfinal loss [to Jack Sock & Mike Bryan in four close sets] was one of my best matches of the year. It was one of the major factors for us both to continue together for the rest of the year. So there is stability. The mind is at peace since you are not thinking about fixing up partners every week.”
The recent run has also given Divij a chance at having a full off-season, instead of having to prolong the year in the hope of more points.
He is defending winner’s points at the upcoming $150,000 Bengaluru Open Challenger but isn’t inclined towards playing because either a rise or a drop in the rankings will be marginal.
“It has been a pretty busy year. In doubles you end up playing a lot more weeks, many of them back to back. So looking forward to a good off-season now. Last year I ended up playing pretty late in the year. This year I am going to finish early so that it will help me going into the next year.”
“I will be defending winners points in Bengaluru but maybe it will just alter my position one or two spots. I have to see what's best for me and whether those 100 points do really matter in the long run. At the moment I am not going to play. But depends.”
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