26-year old Divij Sharan is India’s highest ranked doubles player after Leander Paes, Rohan Bopanna and Mahesh Bhupathi. With Paes and Bhupathi moving closer to retirement, Sharan could be one to watch out for in the coming years, and on the back of his Davis Cup debut last weekend, when he combined with Vishnu Vardhan to win the doubles rubber in a five set thriller, Divij broke into the top 100 of the doubles world rankings for the first time. Sportskeeda caught up with this rising star in Indian tennis for a quick chat.
First of all, congratulations on the Davis Cup win. What was the experience of playing the Davis Cup like?
Tennis is an individual sport, so you get very few opportunities to represent your country in a team game. It’s a different experience from the usual tournaments we play. It’s a lot of fun and is always special to be a part of a team, having a common motive and working together with each other towards it.
It’s been a great experience being part of this young Davis Cup team. All of us were there to support each other, and we were all motivated to do well. Everyone dreams of playing Davis Cup for their country, It was my first Davis Cup match, we played at home and we won the tie. I’m really happy I could share that moment with my close ones. I could not have asked for a better debut.
At the start of 2011, you were ranked outside the top 300 in doubles. Last week, you broke into the top 100 for the first time. What do you attribute this rise to?
The ranking structure is such that it is not very easy to make a transition to the next level. You have to do really well in the tournaments you are playing to move to the next level of tournaments. Since 2011, I’ve made the transition from ITF Futures to ATP Challengers, and now that I’m doing well at the Challengers, I hope to break into the Grand Slams and the ATP Tour events soon.
There has obviously been a conscious effort towards working on my doubles game over the last few years. It’s been a team effort between my coach Aditya Sachdeva, trainer Nasir Ahmad and physio Vimal Sharma to work towards getting better and better. The support from my family has been tremendous.
You have played a lot of doubles with Vishnu Vardhan and Yuki Bhambri of late and have achieved considerable success with both of them. Can you tell us some of their strengths which complement your game in doubles?
I know both Vishnu and Yuki since a long time and we get along very well with each other both on and off the court. Vishnu is an aggressive player with his big serve while Yuki is solid at all flanks and you can expect him to make all the balls. Both their game styles compliment my game.
Has it been a conscious decision to focus more on doubles rather than singles, or did that just sort of happen? Do you still hope to achieve success in singles in the coming years?
I’ve always had more success in doubles since my junior days, so doubles comes naturally to me. So when the time came it wasn’t very tough to decide on focusing more on doubles. I still enjoy playing singles and try to play whenever I get the chance though my priorities still lie with doubles.
You have done fairly well at the Challenger level tournaments. The next step is now the ATP World Tour. Do you have a plan/ strategy on getting there?
Now that I have broken into the top 100, my next goal will be to get to around 70 which would help me get into the Grand slams and ATP tour events.
Indians have done fairly well in doubles in the last decade, much better than in singles in tennis. Why do you think this is so?
Leander and Mahesh and now even Rohan and Sania have been legends in Indian tennis and have done exceedingly well in doubles. I guess that gives all the players the belief that they can do well in doubles. Also, there are usually faster surfaces in India and the coaches give equal importance to the net game which in turn helps a lot with doubles.
What are your upcoming tournaments?
I have played 9 tournaments in the last 10 weeks. So I’m taking a break for a few weeks. After that I plan to play Challengers in Uzbekistan, Korea, Europe and Japan.
What are your goals for the 2013 season? Are you looking to play full time with one particular partner?
I would like to start playing the Grand Slams and the ATP tour events by next year. It would be the best situation if I had a steady partner for the year.