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The Author of the Bestseller, The Power of Positive Thinking, Norman Vincent Peale says, "Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you will land among the stars." The 29-year-old Chennai tennis star, Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan exactly emulates this by setting goals sky high and diligently working towards them. Enduring a slow start to the season of 2018 by making it only to the Quarter-finals of the Newport Beach Challenger US, Bangkok2 Challenger and the Tata Open Maharashtra in Pune, conquering the $125,000 RBC Championships of Dallas, in Texas USA a few days back came as a breeze. Keeping Wimbledon as an exalted objective, the 111th ranked doubles tennis player of India focuses on taking the challenges on this journey head on. Having tasted the Wimbledon flavour in the Junior category in 2004 and 2005, the seeds of clinching that elusive trophy at the All England Club in London had been sown into his being from a young age by his grandfather.
The fourth seeded pair of Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan and Christopher Rungkat scripted a scintillating 6-4, 3-6, 10-7 win over the top seeds Leander Paes and Britain's World no.96 Joe Salisbury who was defending his title to emerge triumphant in the Dallas Challenger. Registering his 26th Career doubles title and a fifth Challenger title, Nedunchezhiyan is all optimist when looking forward to the season ahead. Partnering with Rungkat of Indonesia for some time now, Jeevan hopes to go the distance into this season. The Indian and the Indonesian duo had made it to three finals on the ATP Challenger circuit last year but were left devoid of major success. The dramatic entry into the Wimbledon 2017 for Jeevan in the main draw when Korea's Hyeon Chung withdrew due to injury, forcing the Indian to combine with the American Jared Donaldson was a story in itself. But with Rungkat, Nedunchezhiyan has had a fair time playing together till now and looks to do ahead too. "Rungkat and I just started playing. It is nice to get a challenge title in America .. we both have similar goals which helps the partnership." Jeevan said.
"Getting back into the top 100 is my immediate goal and then to play Wimbledon.", Jeevan said to The Bridge when asked about how does he plan to go ahead in this new season.
A sneak peek into Jeevan's journeyComing from a background of politics and educationalists, it was always intriguing as to how the left-hander from Chennai made his way into sports. A paternal Grandfather who was a politician and the maternal grandpa an educationalist, we wanted to know if there was pressure on him to join either of the spheres. But Jeevan was destined to pick a tennis racquet. "There was never any pressure. They let me play the sport. My maternal grandfather loved the game of tennis. He put me in the game at a young age." "I picked it up quickly and performed well at it so it just kept going until I got a scholarship to the University of Washington because of my ITF junior ranking career high of 9." Nedunchezhiyan said. The veteran Rohan Bopanna was always a helping hand for the 29-year-old. (Image: Zee News) It was after graduating at the University in 2012 that tennis seemed to take the main-stage in Jeevan's career. Reaching the semi-finals of the Chennai Open in 2016 with Somdev Devvarman was kind of a turning point when Jeevan decided to focus solely on the doubles. Spending some five to six years on the Challengers and Futures circuit, the Chennai based Indian was set to make a transition into doubles. The veteran Rohan Bopanna was always a helping hand for the 29-year-old.
The introduction to Doubles TennisBopanna paired with Jeevan at the ATP 250 Series event in Chengdu, China. The duo defeated Feliciano Lopez and Juan Monaco in the first round. Although they lost in the second round, Bopanna was mighty impressed with Jeevan's hard work. Promising to partner with him again if he stepped into the top 100, Rohan stood true to his promise and they played together at the Chenna Open 2017. The duo flourished and clinched the title giving Jeevan his first ATP career title. It was also last year when Nedunchezhiyan got tied into matrimony with the Golfer Neha Tripathi. When asked if ever Jeevan would go back to playing singles, he was quick to say, "I have no plans for singles in the immediate future. All the goals are towards Grand slam Main draw in Doubles at the moment." In a year of 2017 which was like a breakthrough season for Indian men's tennis that saw Ramkumar Ramanathan, Yuki Bhambri going deep into the main draws of singles, Divij Sharan, Purav Raja and Jeevan also made a statement with their super performances in doubles. Wading through various challenges like the support scenario from the authorities, all these athletes have still managed to emerge from the setbacks. Nedunchezhiyan has been vocal on various occasions when asked for opinions about the system. "Expecting the government to support an individuals tennis career is like finding a mirage of a oasis in a desert which shows up every few years for xyz games !" Jeevan said. On the athletes who have made it to the TOPS, Target Olympic Funding Scheme by the Sports Ministry, Jeevan said, "I'm happy for whoever got selected ... I haven't really been following anything. When you are busy running your own race it's hard look at the 'could have' and 'should have' aspects of these things."
India's stronghold on Doubles and lesser when in singlesIt is very stark that India has a strong hold when it comes to Doubles but lacks the strength in singles. But looking at the performances of the singles players in these two years, it has been a very heartening spectacle. "It's great to see Yuki, Ram, Sumit and Prajnesh establishing themselves as familiar faces at Grand slam Qualifiers. With the right kind of support we can see these guys going a lot further," Jeevan keenly observes. "In my opinion. Saketh is also one to watch out for if he can stay healthy for a season." Jeevan said. Also read: Indian tennis in the rising Without a hint of doubt, Indian tennis is in the rising. The need of the hour is to tap the talent and lend resources and backing for it to flourish. In the near future, there can be numerous stars waiting on the horizon to rise and shine. But what is it, according to him, that needs to be changed maybe ten years down the line? "Well 10 years is a long time I'm not a future teller ! But since we are a country which would probably cross 2 billion by then we will always continue to have the one of talented players to make a mark on a global scale." "Let's hope there's something more structured coming up so that we can do justice with the number of people we have and we are definetly not lacking strength or talent to increase the depth of indian tennis."said Jeevan.
Under the shadow of Leander Paes...The Great Leander Paes has always been the highlight of Indian tennis. Embellishing the country's crown with numerous jewels of accolades from the Grand Slam titles and others, it is more than natural to feel shadowed in the Paes aura for the upcoming tennis talent in the country. Does Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan ever feel that way, to which he said, "I don't think that way. I just focus on getting myself better. The rest is just noise. Questions like these are irrelevant to me." The recent win in Dallas has been an exemplary show of Jeevan's positivity and hard work. This win over the seasoned Paes certainly must have worked as a boost of confidence for the 29-year-old. Jeevan said,"It's nice to win a challenger title in America. Opponents don't matter. I just enjoy competing." And he certainly has more than proven himself as a star to watch out for. Tennis fans in the country will eagerly wait to catch this youngster in action next. "I am training in Seattle at the University of Washington with my team ... I play 5 weeks on the trot with Chris in Asia starting next week," the Chennai star said. There was a positive aura in Jeevan's thoughts which we got to savour. It will be an interesting journey ahead for the Indian star and his fans back home who will be cheering for him at every milestone that he will embark on.