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Tennis: Headed in the right direction, the Indian duo of Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan and Purav Raja

Tennis: Headed in the right direction, the Indian duo of Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan and Purav Raja

Anjali Banerjee

Published: 28 Feb 2019 7:21 AM GMT

Just a week back after a quarterfinal finish at the Open 13, an ATP 250 event in Marseille, the all Indian duo of Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan and Purav Raja decided to take a chance and try sneak into the qualifying draw of the ATP 500 in Dubai instead of playing a challenger on the tour. Like the whole universe conspires to help the ones who give it their best, it so did to Purav and Jeevan.

Making it through two qualifying matches, Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan and Purav Raja pulled off a miraculous upset in the opening round of the ATP 500, Dubai Duty-Free Tennis Championships yesterday. Coming back from a set down, they played some fine tennis to beat third seeds, Finland’s Henri Kontinen and Australian John Peers 0-6, 6-4, 10-8 in about 62 minutes to secure a berth in the quarter-final of the tournament.  They will face Germany’s Philipp Kohlschreiber and Spaniard Fernando Verdasco for a ticket into the semi-final.

The Indian duo has been consistently showing marked improvement within a short span since the start of February when they decided to play together.

“Yes yesterday’s win over Peers and Kontinen was indeed a miracle because if you look into the statistics, they were the better team for 90% of the match but we were just fighting through our service games. We saved eight break points in the second set to hold on to the break and make it one set all. Then I think we played a very very good super tiebreak and finally got the win,” said Jeevan to The Bridge.

It is incredible though as to how they turned the tide together and managed to topple a team that is one of the best on the tour. John Peers, a former top 2 and Henri Kontinen, former world no 1 in doubles were a dangerous pair to deal with, given that they are the 2017 Australian Open champions and finalists at the same Major in Melbourne this year.

Reflecting on that miraculous win, Jeevan said, “They are a fantastic team. They are one of the best teams in the world for sure. I think the key to pulling off that win was the fact that Purav and me, have spent months together and whether we have been playing matches or not playing, we have been discussing day and night pretty much every day about the best kind of ways that are going to help us play our best tennis together. All our last losses have been close, so how do we tackle those tight situations. Also, I think the main objective was to enjoy the process. We got an early break too in the super tiebreak and we kind of managed to hold on to that lead.”

Image Source: SR'28Sports | Indian Tennis Daily

It has been barely a month together since Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan and Purav Raja have been playing together as a pair on the tour. But the on-court chemistry of both is already reaping rewards for the all Indian combine. Since joining forces at the beginning of this month when the pair made the cut for the Sofia Open, an ATP 250 event in Bulgaria, both Purav and Jeevan have been showing stellar results beating some top players on the tour and brimming with confidence. “Purav and me, are very good friends and we do not mind talking tennis for hours together, figuring out ways to bring out the best. The key there is also a lot of trust and a lot of belief in each others abilities. I think this is what is helping us produce consistent results almost every week. We have been together for just a month and I think dishing out such results is indeed very uplifting”

Nedunchezhiyan and Purav also scripted another top win in the R16 in Marseille a week back at the Open 13.

They beat top seeds Oliver Marach and Mate Pavic, former top 2 and World no 1 respectively. “Yes, the win over Marach and Pavic was a big boost for us as a team. We got that confidence about our ability and what we can do as a team. The next match too, we lost to Melzer Jurgen who is a former top 10  and Oswald Philipp who is a former top, 40 player. So we are playing consistent tennis against the best guys on the tour. It also helped us to get smart and try and get into the bigger tournaments rather than playing safe with the scheduling. It is something that I learnt in these three to four years of playing doubles. That is how we landed into Dubai, not sure if we could get into the ATP 500 event but we took the chance, last one into qualifying and here we are getting better with each match. It is also the belief that you should be trying to be able to play at the highest level.” said Jeevan taking us through how they made the most of the opportunity of getting into the draw of the ATP 500.

Nedunchezhiyan, the southpaw from Chennai who won his first career title with Rohan Bopanna in Chennai in the year 2017, has also basked in a breakthrough last season touching a career-high ranking of 69 with his consistent performance. Currently perched at 75, Jeevan is optimistic of his chances as he goes into the season with his Indian partner Purav Raja who is currently ranked 96 and is a seasoned veteran, a former top 50 himself. The experienced Purav has won two ATP titles and played earlier with the Great Leander Paes for quite some time.

Image Source: SR'28 | Indian Tennis Daily

Of course, there is yet lots to improve for both Jeevan and Purav as a team and the duo is well aware of their shortcomings. The main draw opening match in Dubai where they lost the first set 0-6 is a big indicator that there are flaws which need attention even though they won the match.

“There is a lot to improve upon obviously when you lose a set 6-0. But then I think there is a lot we can do through March to get better. Play a lot of events together and figure out how we can become a team that everyone thinks they do not want to play against because they have been together for a while and they have been showing consistent results. Also, I think if we can stick together and do the right things with practice and training, we will surely be in a  good position to be competing for the impending Slams.” Jeevan said.

So, what do we expect from this partnership for the coming French Open?

“We have still two months to go for the cuts for any Slam, so right now I think we just stay in the moment and see how we can improve since it is just a month that we are playing together. Purav has been a former top 50 and me doing ok at 70s, so there is still a long way to work our way up and then the rankings will take care of the rest.”

As the season progresses, Indian tennis fans will be excited to watch this another all Indian pair in the doubles. With Rohan Bopanna and Divij Sharan who already are making noise on the tour, it is heartening to have another doubles pair scripting smashing wins as the year proceeds.

We asked Jeevan to quickly update us on their coming events and he said, “ The next few tournaments obviously depend on how this event in Dubai ends for us and a lot can change on how the next few days go for us. So I am unsure of any plans where we would be. It has been a long tough month and we have played every week. We have been constantly on the road, constantly travelling and we have got each others back which has helped us improve a lot. As of now, we do not have the rankings to play a Masters event but we will definitely try and play the highest Challengers in terms of points and prize money and other events whenever we will get an opportunity.”

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