Bopanna-Divij combine to remain for 2019

Apart from bringing a left-right combination, Rohan Bopanna feels his powerful returns complements Divij Sharan’s ability at the net with his good anticipation skills.

Rohan Bopanna and Divij Sharan in action during their men's doubles final of the Maharashtra Open.   -  R. Ragu

After two successful events, a gold medal at the Asian Games and winning the Maharashtra Open earlier this month, the Rohan Bopanna and Divij Sharan pairing had a tough outing at their Grand Slam as a pair, losing to the Spanish duo of Pablo Carreno Busta and Guillermo Garcia Lopez in a tough three set match in their opening round match at the Australian Open on Wednesday.

With the Davis Cup tie next month against Italy, where a win could get India to the finals later in the year, it has not been the ideal start for the pair who will likely play the doubles rubber in that tie but Bopanna is not overly concerned about it.

Speaking to Sportstar at his Airbnb residence in Melbourne on Thursday, Bopanna said, “You don't want to lose in the first round but we played a good match against a team that have been playing together for longer than us and has even made the finals of a slam in the past.”

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India will play Italy in Kolkata on grass and Bopanna feels the surface offers the best chance for the hosts to beat an Italian side that will start as overwhelming favourites with strong players like Fabio Fognini, Andreas Seppi and Simone Bolelli in its ranks.

Despite the blip here in Melbourne, the duo plan to play together for the whole year, putting a proper Indian team on the doubles map again with both players in the top 40 in the doubles rankings.

“I feel it will take two to three months to understand each other. After Pune we would have loved to do well but over the next few days and weeks we will still be practicing together building on that partnership. We hope to get into most major tournaments and our aim is to qualify for the ATP Finals in London as a team,” said the 38-year-old.

A good thing for the duo will be the fact their styles of play complement each other. Apart from bringing a left-right combination, Bopanna feels his powerful returns complements Sharan’s ability at the net with his good anticipation skills.

“This is a fresh partnership. But by only playing matches and having the coach watch videos of our match, we will get better. I have played against left-right combinations and it is not easy to get into a rhythm. So once we can start working it into our strength, we will get better.”

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Bopanna who won the mixed doubles French Open title in 2017, also added that a partnership with a Indian player always helps on the tour saying, “It is not just about  things on the tennis court but even off-court it is good to have someone from your own country. It also helps our country and helps raise the profile of the game seeing two Indians fighting amongst the best and hopefully we can inspire some young kids.”

Bopanna will next be playing in the Australian Open mixed doubles from Friday partnering Chinese Yang Zhaoxuan.

The writer was in Melbourne at the invitation of Airbnb.