When the Purav Raja-Ramkumar Ramanathan duo signed up to play the Kobe Challenger in Japan last November, it was just testing the waters. But after just four weeks of tennis, the partnership seems a full-blooded one.
In less than a month of being together on court, the two have won three Challenger titles and made a run to the semifinals of an ATP 250 event (Pune). Ramkumar, India’s third best singles player, is now just outside the top-100 in doubles (106).
“Actually we have to give credit to Aisam [Ul-Haq Qureshi],” said Purav. “When we were playing the same tournament in France in October, he was like ‘why don’t you play some weeks with Ram. His game could really complement yours.’ And Ram sent me a message right after, and we set up to play Kobe and Pune and ended up winning both, and I was like ‘okay!’”
“Then we decided to play Pune 250 and Bangalore. And here we are! The chemistry is good and we’ll see to it that we have a good understanding of each other.”
Purav has thus far travelled predominantly with doubles specialists, but he remains confident of working out a schedule which takes into account Ramkumar’s singles commitments. “Where there is a will there’s a way,” the 34-year-old said. “I have seen this working in the past and I have seen it be successful with numerous people. I’m sure I am experienced enough to try and get over all of that.”
‘So much support’
For Ramkumar singles remains the priority, but the sense of camaraderie that comes with doubles is liberating. “You have a partner with you and you have so much support. Singles is just you being alone,” the 25-year-old said. “Hopefully, once we are both in the top-70 or 80, we can get into the ATP Tour events and I can also play singles qualifying there. That will be perfect for me.”
When such a time comes, setting goals as a team wouldn’t be a problem, Purav felt. “I now set more targets in terms of the way I have to play. I am more of a senior player now as opposed to two or three years ago and I can lead a team. I am not very result-oriented, but more process-oriented. Like getting the first serve percent up to 80, winning all the second serve points, etc. Ultimately, good tennis will prevail.”