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French Open 2018: Yuki Bhambri-Divij Sharan to face Purav Raja-Fabrice Martin in opener, tough draw for Rohan Bopanna

FEATURED COLUMNIST
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386   //    27 May 2018, 18:18 IST

yuki bhambri divij sharan
Divij Sharan (left) and Yuki Bhambri (image courtesy: Tata Open Maharashtra)

In an exciting first round face-off, former doubles partners Divij Sharan and Purav Raja are to meet each other as the French Open 2018 men’s doubles draw got revealed on Sunday. Sharan has teamed up with Yuki Bhambri this time while Raja will be playing with France’s Fabrice Martin.

The winner of that match is likely to take on the reigning Australian Open champions and second seeds Oliver Marach and Mate Pavic. The Austrian-Croatian pair has been one of the most in-form teams this year, having won four titles, with their latest triumph coming just a day back at the Geneva Open on clay.

Raja and Martin too got some vital match practice ahead of the Roland Garros at the ATP Lyon. The Indo-French combine made it to the semi-finals of that ATP 250 tournament. It was a much-needed confidence boost for the 72nd ranked Raja, who has struggled since reaching the final at the Lille Challenger alongside Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan in March.

The 32-year-old Raja hasn’t had a stable partnership this year and his run to the Lyon semis with Martin will surely do him a world of good.

The 45th ranked Sharan also finished as a semi-finalist at the same tournament. He and Guillermo Garcia-Lopez bowed out to the eventual champions, Nick Kyrgios and Jack Sock, in the last-four stage.

Sharan has been one of the most in-form Indian players on the Tour this year, which is validated by the five ATP Tour semi-finals on his resume. While he has come to Paris with a good rhythm, the same cannot be said for his partner, Bhambri.

The two did open the 2018 season with a semi-final finish at the Tata Open Maharashtra in January, but Yuki hasn’t played any doubles match since. In fact, the last time the 25-year-old Delhi ace played doubles at a Grand Slam was at the Australian Open in 2014.

Yuki will also be busy in singles, having secured a direct entry in the main draw following his singles triumph at the Chinese Taipei Challenger. He, however, could not get a chance to play any warm-up event on clay and the French Open will be his first tournament on the red dirt this year.

It will thus be interesting to see who, between Sharan and Raja, emerges the victor. Their former partnership had yielded them two titles on the ATP Tour. Suffice to say, they know each other’s games pretty well and the match has the potential to go the distance.

Top seeds loom for Bopanna in Round 3

The fourth Indian in the men’s doubles draw is Rohan Bopanna, placed in the top half. The 24th ranked Bangalore resident is India’s numero uno doubles player and will be playing with his usual partner, Edouard Roger-Vasselin of France.

They have been seeded 13th and they take on the young American duo of Taylor Fritz and Frances Tiafoe. While that round should be a winnable one for the Indo-French combine, their job gets harder from Round 3 as the top seeds and 2017 Wimbledon champions Lukasz Kubot and Marcelo Melo wait for them.

However, it is to be noted that the Polish-Brazilian duo hasn’t won any title since their Sydney success at the beginning of the year. Bopanna and Roger-Vasselin too struggled in their last three tournaments after reaching the semi-finals at Monte Carlo and the quarter-finals in Barcelona.

If the 13th seeds do indeed manage to show the form that helped them make a good start to the clay season, then they can very much cause an upset.

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FEATURED COLUMNIST
A freelance journalist based in Kolkata who is a diehard Rafael Nadal fan. She is also extremely passionate about India’s progress in sports and hopes to throw light on India’s unsung sports heroes through her articles. When not screaming her lungs out in support of her favourite sports stars, she can be seen reading, watching movies or immersed in planning her next travel destination!
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