Indians on the rise: Purav Raja and Divij Sharan
It was the late 90s when Indian Tennis rose to a new peak, signalling the emergence of two of the world’s greatest doubles players. Since then, there has been no turning back as Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi would plot India on the Tennis map forever.
Today, an eventful decade and a half later, we realise that these old war heroes are not going to last for eternity. While Bhupathi has voiced plans of a retirement at the end of this season, Paes is yet to give up on his hopes. Given this, fans are looking for some new talents to come up and fill the void.
Rohan Bopanna has been doing phenomenally well for the past few years with a Slam final and a career high ranking of no.5. Who, apart from him is going to lead India is the question today.
Given our track record, it is not difficult to find doubles winners at Futures or even Challenger events. But, the transition to the ATP Tour, the topmost rung is what many have found difficult.
Today, we see a pair doing that – Purav Raja and Divij Sharan, carrying on the legacy and keeping alive hopes for Indian doubles to continue prospering.
Divij Sharan, a very talented left-hander, has focussed on doubles since the nascent stages of his career. He is the higher ranked of the two, at 84 and is the fourth Indian in the top 100 rankings. He also had a career high no.5 in doubles during his junior days. He has stated that unlike other Indians, he played doubles seriously since his junior days.
Twenty three titles adorn his cabinet and four of them have come in the Challenger circuit, one each with Vishnu Vardhan, Karan Rastogi, Yuki Bhambri and Purav Raja. He gels well with all Indian players, which is evidenced from the fact that he has won all his Challenger titles with Indians, though he had primary success with Olympian Vishnu Vardhan in the Futures circuit and even progressed to the Challengers in his partnership. His lone win at the Davis Cup has also come with Vardhan. Yet, his partnership with Purav Raja has been the most successful one till date.
Purav Raja, a former national singles champion, has been lingering in the second rung of professional tennis for quite a few years. He has had success with Australian Sadik Kadir, Filipino Treat Conrad Huey and many others, but none of them have been consistent. He has 18 titles to his name out of which 4 are from Challenger events. For long he was seen as the next Indian to break into the top 100 but has stayed in the top 150 for long. Even now, he is ranked just 115.
After playing at a few tournaments in 2011 this duo re-emerged earlier this season. Unlike their 2011 outings, they have become more consistent at winning. They have four finals to their credit this year which include a title at Japan. Their finals have come on three different surfaces- Indoor Carpet, Hard and Grass. Their breakthrough moment was when they qualified for their main draw of the Wimbledon last month. A highly ecstatic Divij said that it was a dream come true to be able to qualify for Wimbledon as debutants.
Last week, Divij played with Croat Ivo Karlovic at the Newport grass event, his first ATP event apart from the Wimbledon. They did well for a first time pair and in fact came back from the brink of defeat in both the matches to march on. The semifinal showing at Newport has seen him go up by 5 places in the new rankings and this will surely help Raja-Sharan in their endeavour to qualify for the US Open 2013.
This week, they make their team debut at an ATP event at Bogota, Columbia. Signalling a good start is the surprise seeding that the duo have received- they are seeded fourth. This is possible because of a field deprived of big names, which could further inspire them and provide them with the confidence to do well at this event.
Their careers are now on the rise. They are making the transition to the next level, in a slow and steady manner. Both are just 27 and good friends off the court too. A little more persistence and concentration with growing experience from the big stage could surely translate to victories for this left-right duo. This determined pair is on their way to glory. Another new Indian express is born and we hope that they will also emulate the success of their predecessors in the near future.