It is the dream of almost every tennis player to compete in Wimbledon. Divij Sharan and Purav Raja, the journeymen professionals, actually felt blessed and “gifted” to get a main draw berth in Wimbledon doubles.
“We expected a tough match in the final qualifying round, but were told that we had got a walkover. Anyway, we had to go to the venue and confirm our entry into the main draw”, said Divij Sharan, who has shot to a career-best doubles rank of 91.
“It feels surreal at the moment. We have been preparing and playing well through the season. It is a great opportunity for us, and we hope to take our chance”, said Purav Raja who at 118 is one short of his career-best doubles rank.
“We have been playing good tennis against a lot of tough teams, so we look forward to playing well. It is going to be best of five sets and we are ready for it”, said the 27-year-old Purav.
Quite an optimist who does not allow pressure to weigh on him, Purav was candid in saying that better the opponents better the show court for the match. In any case, the main draw entry assures a doubles team of 7750 pounds in prize money. You win a round and get 90 ATP points.
Every round will be like winning a tournament in terms of points and prize money on offer, for players generally used to the grind of the Challenger circuit.
While it will be a maiden Grand Slam appearance for Purav, Divij has the experience of having competed in all the four Grand Slams as a junior, and had in fact, made the semifinals of the French Open doubles with Tushar Liberhan in 2004.
“I have been playing tennis for 20 years to reach this stage. It is a great opportunity to play well, earn points and move up to the next level”, remarked Divij.
It was fine preparation for Wimbledon, for the Indian duo as they had lost a close final in the Nottingham Challenger on grass, to the Ratiwatana twins, Sanchai and Sonchat, of Thailand.
“We have been working hard and combining well as a team. Grass is one of our preferred surfaces. Of course, the grass is a bit different in Wimbledon to the one in Roehampton where we play the qualifying event. We have got a few days to practise in Wimbledon before the doubles matches start on Tuesday or so”, said Divij.
Quite thoughtfully, the Indian pair had sought the services of physical trainer Anand Dubey who joined them from Delhi in time for the Wimbledon qualifying event.
The players were also happy that Rohan Bopanna had made it a point to watch them in the first qualifying round along with other Indians.
“In fact, we had watched Somdev’s match when he lost a long third set in the singles qualifying event. The players are all there for each other and it is a healthy and encouraging atmosphere”, said Divij.
There will not be any dearth of support or motivation or the expertise to play smart on grass. It will be interesting to see how well Divij Sharan and Purav Raja capitalise on their chance in Wimbledon, to bridge the gap from the elite three of Indian tennis, Mahesh Bhupathi, Rohan Bopanna and Leander Paes who are ranked 7th, 10th and 11th respectively in the world of doubles.