Along the sidelines of Ramkumar’s singles semi-final match at the ATP Eckental Challenger, Surya from our team caught up with Purav Raja, Ram’s doubles partner to talk about how the post covid schedule of play has been for him, plans for the future, etc. Excerpts below –

Q) How would you review your post-covid performance so far?

Like in any professional sport, I think it takes a few weeks to get going. After eight months off, it was very important for me to play in match situations again. On the positive side, we came out on the right side in a few tight matches, and there were a few losses as well.

In the first couple of weeks, I felt I wasn’t quite there in terms of the match sharpness. When I say match sharpness, I mean the 30-30 points, break points, set points, super tiebreaks under pressure. In doubles, things go pretty fast.

Overall, a really positive trip. But in terms of results, we didn’t win any of the Challengers and me and Ram used to winning Challengers(laughs). Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. But we’ve played some good matches and will look to build on it for next year. I did not want to start next year without having matches under my belt

Q) How has your experience with travelling and tournament bubbles been in this covid era?

Bluntly, it is not as fun, without the fans, the whole tournament atmosphere. Having said that, Tennis is doing whatever it can, to host as many events as possible, given the limitations that we have. It’s credit to everyone – holding these tournaments is not easy as we don’t even know which country goes into lockdown

Ramkumar and Purav during the ATP Alicante Challenger in Spain in Oct, 2020

Q) You were in the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak in March when the cases started coming, playing at a Challenger in the Lombardy region in Italy. How would you narrate your feelings in hindsight?

Looking back on it, it was my last tournament(before lockdown). And I had felt like it wasn’t real. When someone says that there is a flu or malaria around the area, we’re very used to this in India and don’t take it very seriously. But I left the tournament venue on Friday regardless, and the tournament got cancelled subsequently. So now, it feels like it was one of the weirdest events I’ve ever been a part of. It affected the entire world in the following months. We are lucky to be here, and I feel lucky to be competing after 8 months at home

Q) You lost in the QF here in Eckental. What do you think went wrong?

When you have such small margins, the match sharpness has to be there. We got through the first round because of our chemistry. When we are at our bests, we are very very sharp. So in those moments, a couple of mistakes from me and a couple of mistakes from Ram, cost us the match. They were more match-sharp, as they have probably been playing for 10 weeks more. But that’s the way tennis goes

Q) Your thoughts on the carpet surface here

I was telling someone earlier that the only two surfaces that we don’t have in India are red clay and carpet. And in all my tournaments post lockdown, I’ve ended up playing on red clay and carpet(laughs). So the preparation wasn’t ideal.

The carpet is not as fast as it used to be, and it’s a great surface to play Tennis on. More tournaments should be held here as it’s easy on the knees

Q) What lies ahead for you?

Ram is playing very well in singles and both of us are very close to breaking the top 100 in doubles as well. I think it will be great to break into the Top 60 or Top 70 and play all the Grand Slam main draws with him. I think he has a great game style for me to play with, as he plays a huge game and I set up play. As the results say, we do well together. I hope we grow from strength to strength – him in singles and us in doubles together

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