Just before the beginning of the new season when India’s two top ranked players announced about they forming a team for the upcoming year on tour, a delightful wave swept off fans. Rohan Bopanna and Divij Sharan who won hearts with their Asian Games Gold, made a statement once again on their debut as a team on the ATP Tour. Last evening at the Balewadi stadium in Pune, the all Indian combine and top seeds beat the unseeded British pairing of Luke Bambridge and Jonny O’Mara 6-4 6-3 in an hour and three minutes to lift their maiden doubles team title at the ATP 250, Tata Open Maharashtra.
“There is nothing like winning a tournament at home and happy to win it in Pune” said an ecstatic Bopanna after the match, who lost just four points on his serve in the duration of those 63 minutes. Going without a tour title in the last season, the 38-year old veteran ushers into the new season on a high. The Bengaluru star had won in Vienna in 2017 with Pablo Cuevas but the last season was slow except the Asian Games Gold with Divij Sharan which fuelled the partnership goals further for both.
Divij Sharan, the left hander from Delhi had a brilliant last season. The 32-year-old reached a career high ranking of 36 with a couple of good wins at the Grand Slams and other tournaments. Albeit Sharan who won Antwerp in 2017 with Scot Lipksy could not win a title last year. But the Asian Games gold and the confidence gained from the other wins has shown up in a big way with the title in Pune. With the first Major of the year, the Australian Open just round the corner, Sharan hopes to go the distance in Melbourne. With compatriot Bopanna by his side, the southpaw believes they can be a pair that can pose threat to the best in business. “Rohan has got a lot of experience and I have had a good run at the last few Grand Slams and yes we are going to aim big” said Sharan after their triumph in Pune.
This title at the Tata Open Maharashtra is the 18th tour title for Rohan Bopanna while a fourth for Divij Sharan.
In 2017, the same tournament which was then the Chennai Open had seen Sharan and Bopanna playing against each other. Bopanna had paired with Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan and beat Sharan and his then partner Purav Raja to lift the ATP 250 crown. With time turning pages, both Bopanna and Sharan have now made it as a team and are a delight to watch. The pair is enjoying a winning streak since the Asian Games.
A stern test of mental and physical fortitude
In Pune, the quarter finals and semi final was a stern test of mental fortitude for both the Indians. Playing back to back super tiebreakers was also a test of fitness which the duo passed with finesse. In the quarter final, Sharan and Bopanna came face to face against the Great Leander Paes and Reyes Varela who were outplayed by the all Indian duo in a cliffhanger, thrilling super tiebreak. Leander and his Mexican partner had six match points but Sharan and Bopanna held nerves in those wanting times to fend off the threat and storm into the semi final after an hour and forty five minutes.
The match was a thriller in more than many ways. With a controversy on what seemed like a double fault from Leander, the chair umpire who did not make the call had to get involved in a tiff with Bopanna. Nonetheless, the top seeds Bopanna and Sharan, managed to keep their composure and eventually get the win 6-7(4) 6-4 17-15.
The semi final match was another very tough fight for the Indian pair. Playing against a pair who have a Grand Slam title each to their resume was a daunting task which the Indians handled with elan. They thwarted the Italian-Craotian pair of Simon Bolleli and Ivan Dodig 6-3 3-6 15-13 in an hour and 33 minutes. Playing a super tiebreak again after their previous quarter final match, both Sharan Bopanna shaked off two match points in the tiebreak to prevail and make the final.
Bopanna’s huge serve and returns were instrumental in the win. Sharan meanwhile played much better than the earlier match and kept assuring that with more practice and work, he will get better with time.
The win was significant as Bolleli, a former top-50 player who won the 2015 Australian Open with compatriot Fabio Fognini was a dangerous opponent. Also Ivan Dodig who has the French Open crown to his credit with Marcelo Melo in the same year was not going to be easy. It was indeed a very impressive win for the Indian combine to see off these seasoned campers and storm into the final in Pune.
The final was more like a walk in the park for the Indian combine as they had won two marathon tiebreakers in their previous matches. In the final showdown, Bopanna and Sharan won 72% of serves and broke their British rivals thrice out of the four chances at their disposal. Playing an almost flawless match in front of a boisterous home crowd, the Indian pair lifted their first ever ATP title together as a team.
Bopanna, a former doubles World No 3 and 2017 French Open Mixed Doubles champion has high hopes about himself and Sharan going into the season. It will be interesting to watch the duo unleash more firepower as the season reveals itself in the days ahead.
Bopanna and Sharan will be playing in the Sydney International, another ATP 250 event. They take on the French-Croatian combination of Roger Vasselin and Ivan Dodig in the Round of 16 tomorrow. Indian tennis fans will be hoping to see their favourite stars snatch more glory in the coming months.