It has been a dream start for Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan and Sriram Balaji on the tennis tour this season.
Starting as Alternates, who step into the draw only on a vacancy, the duo made an impact by reaching the final of the Tata Open Maharashtra ATP event in Pune and then beating the fifth seed in the Australian Open in Melbourne.
“I am thrilled”, said Jeevan, out in Europe to play two tournaments with Balaji before coming home for the Challenger events.
“When we were a few spots out of the Australian Open, we decided to fly to Melbourne and make it a good practice week, in case we did not get in. Every day we would do our workouts in the gym and find teams that wanted to play points and stay sharp. As luck would have it, we managed to get in alternates in the 32nd (last) match”, recalled Jeevan.
Understandably the duo was proud to have ousted the fifth seeds, Ivan Dodig and Austin Krajicek.
“Dodig and Austin are both fantastic players. We knew we had to bring the energy and fight hard for every point. I was proud of our match, regardless of the result. We both played the match without fear and were brave in the big moments”, said Jeevan.
Having fast-tracked the return to the Grand Slam stage after setting Wimbledon as the target, Jeevan said that it was a great opportunity to tune in and get ready for Roland Garros.
“We need to keep creating opportunities and need to capitalise on them. We have set ourselves in a great position. A bunch of consistent Challenger results last year and the results now have put us into the top-100. We both are grateful to our families for supporting our dreams”, he said.
He was particularly grateful to his friend Mithun Murali who flew in from Sydney to be of great support during preparation in Melbourne.
“Captain Mithun Murali is my best friend. As soon as he learnt about our travel to Melbourne, he flew from Sydney for us. At a Grand Slam, it is important to have a team. Not just Melbourne, Captain has been there for me in my entire career”, said Jeevan.
Having been outside the top-200 last year at the same time, Jeevan said that he was proud about “sticking with the grind, putting in the work to rebuild my career. It is all worth it if we play the Grand Slams”.
Jeevan was all praise for Sania Mirza closing her sterling Grand Slam career with the mixed doubles final in partnership with Rohan Bopanna.
“Sania Mirza’s career is the dream that sparks so many kids to pick up a racquet. She is truly one of a kind, and we wish her the best in her post-pro-tennis life. To play the Grand Slam final was a fitting finale for someone who has done the country proud for so many years”, he said.