Raja, Sharan clinch doubles title at Manchester

Purav Raja and Divij Sharan clinched the doubles title in an ATP Challenger in Manchester, overcoming Ken Skupski and Neal Skupski of Britain in a tight encounter to win 6-3, 3-6, 11-9.

Divij Sharan (left) and Purav Raja with their trophy after winning the final.   -  Special Arrangement

The unseeded pair of Purav Raja and Divij Sharan survived three matchpoints and won the doubles title with a 6-3, 3-6, 11-9 victory over second seeds Ken Skupski and Neal Skupski of Britain in the €42,500 men’s Challenger tennis tournament in Manchester on Sunday.

It was a commendable fare from Purav and Divij, who had won a Tour event in Bogota in 2013, as the duo had beaten the top seed and second seed also, without dropping a set, along the way. The title was worth €2650 and 80 ATP points.

"I think we truly earned this title, beating two Grand Slam champions, one Grand Slam finalist and the top three seeds," remarked Divij.

The title was on its way as Purav and Divij had made the Savannah final and followed it up with three semi-finals in recent weeks in Tallahassee, Seoul and Busan, after having made the quarter-finals on their reunion in Sarasota.

Confidence booster

"This title gives us a lot of confidence moving forward. We came out through tough situations a few times. We were 5-7 down after being up 5-2 in the match tie-break. We won five points in a row from being down 6-9," observed Divij before catching a flight to Surbiton for the next tournament.

Interestingly, when they returned together this season for a week in January in the Challenger in Bangkok, Purav and Divij had lost to the same Skupski brothers in the first round.

"Purav was going to Australia and it was an arrangement for a week," recalled Divij, who is supported by Adidas, Head and is employed with Indian Oil.

It was the seventh Challenger doubles title for Purav and ninth title for Divij, and third as a pair. Purav has 16 Futures doubles titles and Divij, 19. Divij also has the distinction of having played all the four Grand Slam doubles events and had the best of pre-quarterfinals with Yen-Hsun Lu of Chinese Taipei at the US Open in 2013. Purav played the French Open last week with Ivo Karlovic of Croatia and lost first round.

Purav and Divij had enjoyed a lot of success during their long stint together from November 2012 to March 2014, before lack of conviction in their combination saw them move to different partners.

Identically aged 30, Purav had reached a career-best rank of 71, while Divij reached 63.

"Grass definitely is my favourite surface. It works best for our game style. The thing that works the most for us is that we use each other’s strengths really well," said Divij, who had qualified for Wimbledon with Purav three years ago.

The fact that Divij had played with 21 different partners last year and possibly a similar situation for Purav, made them decide to 'do a circuit together and take it from there'.

"This is our sixth week together and we have had a great run, with one title, one final and three semi-finals," said Divij, quite keen to get back to the top-100 in ranking and get closer to top 70 to get back to the Grand Slams.

Interesting times ahead.

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