Tata Maharashtra Open: Rohan Bopanna, Divij Sharan upbeat about alliance

With 2020 Olympics in sight, Rohan Bopanna and Divij Sharan, the two highest-ranked Indian doubles players, come together to play on the ATP Tour — the Tata Open Maharashtra.

“Both of us, with our strengths, can go really deep.” Divij Sharan believes the doubles partnership with Rohan Bopanna (right) is a potent one.   -  PTI

Not since 2013, when Mahesh Bhupathi and Rohan Bopanna combined, have two of the highest-ranked Indian doubles players come together to play on the ATP Tour.

As the 2019 season-opener, the Tata Open Maharashtra, gets underway from Monday, Bopanna teaming up with Divij Sharan is set to grab attention. The two best doubles practitioners in the land won the gold medal at the Asian Games in Jakarta and clearly have the 2020 Tokyo Olympics in their sights.

“Really happy to be playing with someone from India again,” said Bopanna. “It has been a long time and it is special to travel and compete with someone from your own country. We thought this may be a good opportunity looking at Tokyo as well.”

In fairness, the present seems nothing like the 2013 heyday when India had three players in the world’s top 10. Bopanna is now ranked 37 and Divij 39. Yet, it hasn’t stopped the duo from feeling upbeat. Divij, in particular, after playing with a dozen partners this year, hoped the latest association might just be the right one.

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“Rohan has got a big game, which can help us go all the way [in tournaments],” he explained. “Our lefty-righty combo will be to our advantage, too. What will make a difference is us doing good in a few big tournaments, which was missing in my previous partnerships. I think both of us, with our strengths, can go really deep.”

‘Much to learn’

Bopanna believed that they complement each other well. “Divij moves well at the net and volleys better while I hit with a lot of power from the back of the court,” said the 38-year-old. “It helped us at the Asian Games when we came through a couple of super tiebreaks by really working to our strengths. But we still have so much to learn.”

Rohan Bopanna (left) and Divij Sharan won the gold medal in men's doubles at the Asian Games in 2018. Photo: AFP

 

In such a nascent partnership, Divij felt that it was important not to worry about results and the accompanying pressures early on.

‘Confident’

“We shouldn't think too much even if we have a great first few weeks,” the 32-year-old said. “Initially, you just try and get used to playing with each other. We are confident that we can do well. We just need to give ourselves that chance.”

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According to Bopanna, his big-match experience would come in handy. “Divij hasn't had a full year playing all the Masters,” he said. “Myself being there to constantly guide him through that will be an advantage. It was a similar thing when I was with Mahesh because I had someone who had already done it at that level.”

“Also, training and being together makes a difference. Most successful doubles teams do that. When I played with [Pablo] Cuevas (in 2017), we had good results but we didn’t practise much because he was playing singles. So looking forward to competing alongside with Divij.”