“Any team on any side of the draw is tough. It almost feels like a Masters event.” – Rajeev Ram after the win against Novak Djokovic and Marin Cilic

Indian American icon Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury, the defending champions at the ATP 500 Dubai Duty Free Championships, have cruised through their first round match with a straight set win over the legendary Novak Djokovic and Marin Cilic pairing with a score line of 62 62.

Kosturi Ghosh caught up with Rajeev Ram for his thoughts on the match, the partnership with Joe Salisbury, on Leander Paes’s win and on the journey ahead for himself this tourney.

Comments on the match

Couldn’t be happier with the way we played. Of course, up against two great players – we are were able to come out and play our game, our tennis, and pick up where we left off – that is a really encouraging sign.

On fitness

I was ill during the off season. I worked quite a lot in the couple of weeks after the Australian Open, didn’t play much, but was able to do a fair bit of work on fitness, so that should stand me in good stead for the season, especially the majors when we play a little bit longer.

On the pairing with Joe Salisbury

We have a year under our belt so far. We played really good tennis towards the back end of the year. We won in Vienna, made the finals in Antwerp, won a couple of rounds in Paris and we were in a chance to qualify for the semis in London. Of course, it’s not happened overnight, it been about the experience and figuring each other out. Feel like we started to play some good tennis consistently around the US Open last year and this is about building on that.

On defending the title with Joe

It’s big for us. We played great last year. It was our first title together, early on in the partnership, so that was very special. We decided to come back here and its always nice to play in a place where you have nice memories. We are going to take it one match at a time and defending the title is long way away, but tonight was a good start.

On the next match

This tournament is really tough. It’s not just the next match, any team on any side of the draw is tough. It almost feels like a Masters event. These guys have both won grand slams before, and these kinds of tournaments too. These doubles matches are about making the right shot at the right time and sticking together as a team.

On the Leander match

Didn’t see a point of it of course (they were playing on the neighbouring court). Great win considering it was against an in form team. Leander is still doing it at this level, so hats off to him for that for sure.

On the road ahead

After a week off, we head to Indian Wells for the stretch of the season in America. Joe and I are really excited to play those. We didn’t do particularly well in this part of the season last year, had a rocky time after Dubai till the French Open, so looking forward to that, but right now we are focusing on this week and hope to play as well as can.

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