Leander Paes teams up with Raja

The pair is formed to participate in the Winston-Salem Open and the U.S. Open.

Leander Paes was looking to developing a good partnership with Purav Raja.   -  R. Ragu

Leander Paes has teamed up with Purav Raja for the Winston-Salem Open and the U.S. Open. It makes Raja only the sixth Indian to have paired with the veteran legend on the pro-circuit.

Raja formed a very successful pairing with the left-handed Divij Sharan but since they failed to defend 250 points at Los Cabos, where they had won the title last year, they fell by 15 spots each in the rankings. With their combined rank of 137 (Sharan 68 and Raja 69) they anticipated that as a team they would not have entered the U.S. Open, where the cut last year was around 130, and they decided to split.

Paes, ranked 59, has paired with Raja, and Sharan with Germany’s Andre Begemann, who is placed 66. The deadline to send entry was August 18. However as it turned out, a lot of singles players chose not to play the doubles and the number of participating pairs weren’t as many as expected. Eventually, number of teams stood at 155.

Early call needed

Sharan explained that split was the only sensible option under prevailing circumstances. “Yes, we could have entered together but we would have known only last minute. If we could not get in together, then we would have struggled to find a partner at the last minute because everyone would have fixed the team. Or maybe only one of us would have found a partner, so we had to take a call early,” Sharan told PTI.

Paes said he was looking forward to having a good partnership with Raja. “I have seen Purav grow all these years. He has really come up well and I believe we can pull off something big together,” Paes said about Raja, who will be Paes’ 119th partner. Wildcards Paes and Raja will open their campaign against Paolo Lorenzi and Franko Skugor in their first match together on pro- circuit at the Winston-Salem Open beginning on Monday.

‘Week by week’

The two have played together in the past in a Davis Cup tie against Korea in 2013 in New Delhi when top singles players had boycotted the rubber due to a dispute with the AITA on playing conditions. Among other Indians with whom Paes has played on the pro-circuit are Gaurav Natekar, Nitten Kirrtane, Mustafa Ghouse, Rohan Bopanna and Ramkumar Ramanathan.

In the Davis Cup, Paes has teamed up with Zeeshan Ali, Ramesh Krishnan, Vishal Uppal, Fazaluddin Syed, Sunil Kumar Sipaeya, Sanam Singh and Saketh Myneni. Asked if it will be a long term association, Raja said, “We will take it week by week.”

Talking about partner Begemann, Sharan said, “He’s a really good doubles player. He was ranked pretty high at 36 at one point of time.”