Maharashtra Open: Divij looking forward to Paes clash, will continue partnership with Sitak

Defending Maharashtra Open doubles champion Divij Sharan describes Leander Paes' career achievements "amazing" ahead of their doubles match on Tuesday evening in Pune.

Divij Sharan (L) has started the year partnering Artem Sitak of New Zealand.   -  Getty Images

The draw hasn’t been kind to Leander Paes, who is playing his last ATP Tour tournament in India at the Tata Open Maharashtra in Pune this year. He and partner Matthew Ebden will face defending champion Divij Sharan who is playing alongside his regular tour partner Artem Sitak in a Centre Court clash at the Mhalunge Balewadi Stadium on Tuesday evening.

Divij won the title partnering Rohan Bopanna last year and the duo was responsible for Paes’ ouster in the quarterfinals last year.

Talking about the clash, Divij said: “I have played against him quite a few times now in this very tournament. In Chennai (2017), I played him in the first round, I think I played against him last year, and then I'm playing him again this year. I'm looking forward to playing against him.”

“Whatever he's achieved in tennis, it's pretty amazing. Yes, it’s going to be tough for whoever to try to emulate what he's done,” the 33-year-old doubles specialist said.

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Divij has had a memorable run in the tournament throughout his career. “It’s been great. I reached the final in the last edition in Chennai, reached the semifinals with Yuki the next and won the title last year,” he said.

“It’s a new year and I will try to do my best. I am looking forward to playing here in front of the home crowd. I love playing here in Pune. I have done well in one of the Challengers in the past.”

To continue Sitak partnership

Divij Sharan, who renewed partnership with New Zealand’s Sitak in November after parting with Rohan Bopanna, said he will continue the pairing for the immediate future.

“It's happened so many times in the past where, you know, you say that you're fixed for a longer period, but you know things don't work out. So I guess we would want to play together and hopefully, things work out for us. We need to make the cutoff in tournaments and we are just making the cuts for the ATP 250 tournaments for now.

“We've decided that we should give ourselves that chance. We have started the year together and we're going to play the next three to four week together. The goal is to move up so we can try to play bigger events. I think we don't want to put a tag there that we're going to play for the rest of you know, whatever together but hopefully things keep working for us,” he said.

But being just a few months away from the Tokyo Olympics, Divij, however, hinted at renewing the tie with Rohan Bopanna before the quadrennial event. The two won the Asian Games gold in 2018 and combined for the Maharashtra Open title last year.

“Firstly, we need to work on our individual rankings, so that's the biggest goal for the Olympics and maybe (get together) closer to the event. Rohan and I have been in touch, we've been training together and we will see what tournaments we can play together, I'm sure Artem would also like to play the Olympics. If he gets closer to the cut, then he would also want to play with his compatriot with whom he will compete at the Olympics, so we'll keep in touch and see what all tournaments we can plan to play in preparation for the Olympics,” Divij, the doubles World No. 53 said. Rohan Bopanna is ranked No. 41.

“You would like to play with the same partner but different things come into perspective: what rankings you have and what tournaments you're getting into. I think that's the reason why Rohan and I had to stop playing with each other last year. There were these big tournaments coming up and our rankings had dropped a little bit and we weren't getting into them.

“So in that situation he would fix with somebody I would fix with someone and it's not easy to keep changing. So we had to play with different partners which was fine,” he said. 

“I think it's a professional sport, not all are playing with partners from the same countries. Once we get closer to the Olympics, maybe then we will. We want to do well, and we'll do whatever it takes to make sure that we're ready for it,” he said.

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