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The First Grand Slam of the Year, The Australian Open is underway. An action-packed two days have taken the season to a brilliant start and for India, it has been a bitter-sweet treat so far at Melbourne Park. In the qualifiers, Bengaluru Challenger Champ Sumit Nagal and Prajnesh Gunneswaran were inflicted with first-round defeats but India's top-ranked Yuki Bhambri and Ramkumar Ramanathan made an impact at the qualifying rounds.
While Yuki breezed through and made it to the main draw, the Chennai star Ramkumar was ousted in the last match and failed to qualify for the main draw. Expectations were riding high for the World no 122. Bhambri who tried his best but could not get past the first round succumbing to Marcos Baghdatis in straight sets ending the Indian contention in the Men's Singles event at the tournament.
Source: Times of India
What next? We have our strength in the Men's Doubles to look forward to. However this year there will be no participation in the Women's doubles and Women's Singles from the Indian Contingent.
Ace tennis star, Sania Mirza has withdrawn from the season-opening Slam due to a condition called Jumper's knee in her right leg and will not be defending her Women's Doubles Title in Melbourne.
We also have The Mixed Doubles event in which the 37-year-old Rohan Bopanna will pair with Hungary's Timea Babos. The Indian with his Canadian partner Gabriela Dabrowski had won the French Open in 2017. Timea Babos is the reigning WTA Finals Doubles champ along with the Czech Republic's Andrea Hlavackova at the season-ending tournament that was held in Singapore.
We take a brief look at the List of the Four Indians featuring in the Men's Doubles at the Australian Open 2018.
Rohan Bopanna, Leander Paes, Purav Raja, Divij Sharan are all set for the Opening Round in the Men's Doubles in Melbourne from January 17th.
1) The duo of Rohan Bopanna and his French partner Edouard Roger- Vasselin.
The 10th seed combine of Rohan Bopanna and Edouard Roger-Vasselin will begin their campaign against Vasek Pospisil and Ryan Harrison.
Bopanna/Vasselin had reached the semi-final at the Sydney International with convincing wins last week but lost to Kubot/Melo 4-6 7-5 8-10.
Last year in 2017, in the Mixed doubles event at the Australian Open, the Indo- Canadian pair of Rohan Bopanna and Gabriela Dabrowski had made it to the quarter-final round but lost to the pair of India's Sania Mirza and Ivan Dodig.
In the Men's doubles event last year Bopanna partnered with Pablo Cuevas and reached the round of 32 but they were derailed by Bradley Mousley and Bolt despite taking the first set with a 6-2 6-7 4-6.
The duo has begun the season with a great note and it will be time to watch if they go deep into the tournament in Melbourne.
Rohan Bopanna and his Canadian partner are also the 2017 French Open Mixed Doubles Champions and the fourth Indian to win a Grand Slam title.
2) India's Divij Sharan and American Rajeev Ram
The 31 year-old from Delhi, Divij Sharan who boasts of three ATP World tour titles in Doubles also begins his run at the Australian Open partnering with the American Rajeev Ram. Seeded 16th, the Indo-American pair will lock horns with the combo of Marius Copil and Viktor Troicki.
In the year 2017, the pair of Divij Sharan and Purav Raja had stumbled in the opening round at the Australian Open itself. But this year we hope to see a change in fortunes. Sharan showcased a fabulous run with his partner Yuki Bhambri making it to the semi-finals in the Men's Doubles at the recently concluded Maharashtra Open in Pune. Although they did lose to Pierre Hughes Herbert/Gilles Simon, the performance was worth applauds.
Also winning the Bangalore ATP Challenger title with his Russian partner Mikhail Elgin, Sharan has been quite consistent and we hope he carries this form into Melbourne.
3)The all Indian pair of Leander Paes and Purav Raja
India's best Doubles and mixed doubles player Leander Paes who has 8 doubles and 10 Mixed doubles Grand Slam titles to his resume with his comrade Purav Raja will take on the duo of Nikoloz Basilashvilli and Austria's Andreas Haider-Maurer in the opening round of the Men's doubles at the Australian Open.
After having joined forces just ahead of the US Open in 2017, Purav and Leander capped 2017 on a scintillating note, capturing back-to-back Challenger titles. The Indian duo lifted the Knoxville Challenger title in November beating J Cerretani and J Smith in the Finals. They also won the Challengers Title in Champaign, U.S. beating third seeds Ruan Roelofse of South Africa and Joe Salisbury of Britain.
It was the fifth Challenger doubles title for Leander in the last season and third for Purav, who had won the first with Divij Sharan in Bordeaux.
The combine of Paes and Raja made it to the Round of 16 at the Auckland Open last week and also at the Maharashtra Open in Pune at the start of the month falling to fellow countrymen Jeevan Neduchezhiyan and Rohan Bopanna.
The two, with their distinct style of play, have become consistent in striking a winning combination and making distinct strides with every outing.
At 44, Leander Paes has the credit of having competed in Seven successive Olympics with the Singles bronze medal that he won in 1996 in Atlanta being the jewel in the already bedecked crown of his illustrious career. He still has that hunger to compete which reaps results for the Nation.
Paes volunteered to compete with Purav, who had played the doubles in Davis Cup World Group play-off against Canada in September with the Olympian, Rohan Bopanna.
It will be interesting to see what they dish out at the Big Stage at the Season's First Grand Slam in Australia.
Stay here for all the Indian action from Melbourne as we bring forth the round-up of each event and keep our readers updated.