By – Vatsal Tolasaria/Vishnu Reddy, January 14, 2018
Meet Divij Sharan – a southpaw from New Delhi who’s cracked the top 50 and has started to make some serious noise in doubles at the ATP World Tour. He ended 2017 on the perfect note by winning the big ATP $100K(+H) Challenger in Bengaluru with Russia’s Mikhail Elgin, a few weeks after having won an ATP 250 title in Antwerp, Belgium, with Scott Lipsky.
He seemed to have conveniently continued that run of form in 2018, making the semis of the ATP 250 Tata Open Maharashtra with compatriot Yuki Bhambri, and then winning the ATP Challenger event in Canberra one week later, partnering another different partner in Jonathan Elrich from Israel.
If this was not enough, let me inform you that he’s going to play the Australian Open with yet another new partner, with the very experienced Indian-American, Rajeev Ram. They are seeded 16th, this being the first time Divij will be seeded in a Grand Slam. These surely are exciting times for the Delhi lad, and let’s have a look at what his take on what’s to come for him this season.
Divij, with Scott Lipsky, with the ATP 250 European Open(Antwerp,Belgium) trophy
Q) You started off your career as a Singles player. When did the shift to doubles happen?
In tennis as a sport, singles is more important. No one starts off in tennis to make a career in doubles. However, from a young age itself, I have been a better doubles player. When I was 14, I played the Junior Davis Cup and I played most of the doubles ties for the team. Even in the Junior ITF circuit, I reached the World No 5 rank. So as you can see, I was always a better doubles player growing up. So it wasn’t that tough a decision. I also had a few injuries and it wasn’t easy to cope up with both singles and doubles in that state.
I had a decent run in singles as well. At some point of time, I was winning lot of futures events and my ranking was rising up – so I had to take that call to concentrate on doubles to move to the Challengers which with singles, was not possible. Slowly when the transition from Challengers to the ATP Tour events happened, I couldn’t play singles anymore, given my ranking. Ofcourse the priority for me was doubles and that is how the transition happened.
Q) Doubles does not get as much following as singles. In the ATP Tour events too, the doubles matches usually get the outside courts too. How does it feel as a doubles player?
I think the organizers are doing a pretty good job. They have a lot of matches to schedule and at least they get the bigger matches like the semis and the finals to play on the main courts which is great as you would love to play in front of an audience and soak in the atmosphere.
Q) At the French Open, you were in the 3rd round. You were serving for the match against the to-be champions Michael Venus and Ryan Harrison. You lost the match and the opponents eventually won the tournament and ended up qualifying for the ATP season ending World Tour finals. How tough was that loss?
At that time, it was pretty tough. However, one has to learn to accept these losses and see how you can learn from them. I have had some close matches in the last 2-3 months as well. Again, it is part and parcel of the doubles matches and it will happen again too. The goal is to keep going out there and play your game irrespective of the situation and this is something that I have been working on. I think that’s working for me.
Q) You have had a great year in 2017 and and reached a career high of #47. What is the next step for you?
The next step is to break into the top-30 and then top-20. I need a big result in a big event. From here on, it’s not easy to go up unless you do well in the big tournaments like the ATP 500s or the Grand Slams. Hopefully with my new ranking, I will be able to get into all the big tournaments, including some ATP 500s and I aim to do well in them.
Q) For the above goal, you need to have a consistent partner. Do you have someone in mind?
I am working on it. I was supposed to start the year with Scott Lipsky in Pune. But he said that he wasn’t ready to play for physical reasons. Then I got a chance to play with Rajeev. Let’s see how it goes.
Q) How was your off-season? Were you training in India or somewhere else?
I was in Guwahati to play an event for the Indian Oil. This is the one event a year that I play for my sponsor. Had a lot of fun.
Q) What do you think about India hosting Challenger events? Yuki, Ram and Sumit have done well in these events.
It is a great thing as we have the players in both singles and doubles who have the ranking to play in these events and do well. These are home conditions and we are better acclimatized to them. Even if you look at the past record of the home events, Indians have done reasonably well. So it is a big help for us.
I think Yuki was close to the Aussie Open cut, Sumit made it to the Qualies cut. These events are important and some of these wins can change the career of a tennis player. It’s great that we have them, it would be even better if we have even more of them.
Both Bangalore and Pune have been very well organized. Sundar Iyer was the organizer in Pune and Sunil Yajaman in Bangalore – they have gone out of their way to make these two events some of the most well organized events in the world. The players are super happy and I would congratulate them on such a good job.
Q) What do you think about the cohort of Indian Doubles players on the tour these days?
It’s always good to have a healthy competition. We are all friends, support and help each other. It’s great for Indian tennis to have so many players who are doing well on the circuit and it keeps egging on each other to do more.
Rapid Fire –
|What do you do in your free time?||Waste my time on the phone|
|Dream Mixed Doubles Partner||Sania Mirza|
|Favorite Food||Rajma Chawal|
|Favorite matchup||Playing with Federer against Nadal and Djokovic|
|The song that’s been on loop for you recently||Channa Mereya|
|Favorite country and why?||Japan – I just love everything about the place|
|A place that you haven’t been to and would like to visit?||Maldives|