“Our partnership came about because of Aisam Qureshi” – Purav Raja, after going three out of three at the ATP Challenger level as a pair with Ramkumar Ramanathan

It’s not often you see a doubles pair dominate the way the pair of Raja-Ramanathan has, regardless of the level of tournaments. And to do it at the ATP Challenger level, it’s much more unlikely. The #RajaRam pair is here to stay!

Their record stands at 12-0 in matches and 23-1 in sets at the ATP Challenger level. They have won 🇯🇵Kobe 2019, 🇮🇳Pune 2019 and 🇮🇳Bengaluru 2020 together now, losing just one match, albeit at the ATP Tour level, at the ATP 250 Tata Open Maharashtra against Elrich/Vasilevski. This is what they had to say after beating Paes/Ebden 6-0 6-3 in the final of the ATP Bengaluru Challenger –

Ramkumar Ramanathan(left) and Purav Raja (Credits – Ranjith Kumar)

Q) Purav, could you talk a bit about your partnership with Ramkumar?

Purav – We started playing together in November. We played Challengers in Kobe(2019), Pune(2019) and now we played Bangalore – and won all of them. So obviously with Ram’s singles schedule it’s tough, but it’s a pleasure to play with him. I have never had such good results in the first four tournaments with anyone. The future is bright, but I don’t want him to take him away from singles, so I have to do some adjusting to my schedule to try and work out the best way where we can try and play as many weeks together.

Q) Purav, just a follow up on what you said. Playing with specialists doubles players, it’s easier to plan your schedule. With somebody who is among India’s best singles players, how difficult is it going to be going forward?

Purav – Where there is a will there is a way. We will have to work it out. I have seen this working in the past and I I have seen it be successful with numerous people in the past. I’m sure I am experienced enough to try and get over all of that.

Q) How did this partnership come about?

Purav – Actually we have to give credit to Aisam(Qureshi). Because me and Aisam were playing the same tournament in Mouilleron-le-Captif, France in October last year. And Aisam was like “why don’t you play some weeks with Ram. His game could really complement yours.” And Ram sent me a message right after, and we set up to play Kobe and Pune in November. And we ended up winning both, and I was like “okay!”(laughs)

And then at the start of the year Ram wanted me to come to Australia. But since we wouldn’t have made the Australian Open cut, I didn’t see the point of going all the way down to Australian for just one Challenger. So we just decided to play Pune and Bangalore. And here we are! So it’s just one of those things that we will have to work out, but the chemistry is good and we’ll see to that we have a good understanding of each other, where I understand his limitations in terms of scheduling and he understands mine. 

Ram and Purav during the final (Credits – Ranjith Kumar)

Q) Ram, how important is doubles at this stage of your career?

Ram – I would say that both are the same for me, because it’s tough to win a tennis match, be it singles or doubles. Doubles is something which I really enjoy. You have a partner with you and you have so much support. Singles is just yourself playing on court. I really enjoy it. Whenever we are playing, we are always smiling and enjoying on court. So I will play as long as I can.

Q) Ram, you’ve beaten Paes/Ebden twice in a row now. You had a couple of tough singles weeks in parallel. Where does Purav’s role come into play here?

Ram – I wouldn’t say I had bad weeks in singles. To win a match, like I said, is very tough. To beat anyone or to lose, the margin is very small, because tennis is growing. 

We have played a lot of matches now, so we know what we are doing on key moments. He knows where I’m serving, I know his strengths, he knows my weaknesses. We bond well and the vibe is good. The bond is very important in making a good team and we believe in both of our games. When I miss a serve, he says go for it and when he misses, it’s the same thing. So I think all these small things add up and then you win the tournament.

#RajaRam, as they are fondly called (Credits – Ranjith Kumar)

Q) Ram, what is your take on the scheduling issue Purav touched upon. How will you try and manage to play together?

Ram – There is no doubt that I would love to play with Purav whenever I can. I feel it’s the same for him, like he said.

Hopefully, once we are both in the top-70 or 80, we can get into the ATP Tour events and I can also play singles qualifying of the Tour events. That will be perfect for me. So I hope that happens very soon. But for now, I am playing in Mexico next, while Purav goes to Italy.

Q) Purav, you seem to be serving much bigger these days. Is it something you are working on?

I was inspired by Ram maybe(laughs). If I hold my serve, and if we are returning like we are returning and Ram is serving like he is serving, there are not really many holes. I’m on top of the net and he is serving at 190(kmph) or 200(kmph). I have obviously been working on all the parts of my game, especially second serve, bouncing away. I have started hitting all the spots on serve. Again I have to give credit to Ram.

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