At the start of the 2022 season, Rohan Bopanna was the sole Indian player in the top 100 of the ATP men’s doubles Rankings.
On Monday, that number increased to four with Yuki Bhambri (97th) being the latest entrant to the club that also has Ramkumar Ramanathan (69th) and Saketh Myneni (84th).
Ramkumar, who was already into the top 150 when 2021 ended, got a massive boost by winning two ATP250 events with Bopanna in Adelaide and Pune, therefore making it to the top 100 by the first week of February.
However, for Saketh and Yuki, it has been a grind like no other. “We were technically not ranked at all. They (ATP) had some protected ranking from 2019 which we could use to enter some events,” Saketh told Sportstar.
Winning two ITF events (Bhopal and New Delhi) and five Challenger tournaments (Salinas, Prostejov, Porto, Lexington and Mallorca) in the last seven months has helped the pair in just about making it to the top 100.
But how did this partnership happen in the first place considering both Saketh and Yuki have predominantly been singles players for most of their careers?
The 30-year-old Yuki, who hails from Delhi, is a former junior Australian Open champion who reached a career-high ranking of 83 in singles in 2018 while Saketh is a former world number 137. The two have known each other since meeting for the first time at an under-14 event in 2005.
Saketh said the decision to play together was “more like a mutual thing.”
“We have had too many injuries in our paths. It's tough for us to compete (in singles) with our bodies for a whole season.”
Yuki still wanted to play a few singles events because of his Protected Ranking after coming back from a knee injury to see how his body worked. But the two had decided to give it a try at playing doubles together, beginning with a few ITF events in India.
The Challenger Route
Saketh and Yuki had to start from scratch and take the route of the Challenger circuit, a level below the ATP Tour where the draws are smaller and the rankings point on are less.
Together, they have played a total of 18 Challenger events this year and accumulated 725 points each. The maximum points the pair could earn from an event was their title-winning campaign in Prostejov where they received 100 points each.