“It works out pretty good when you’ve got a partner like Barbora who is better than you are” – Rajeev Ram

Indian-American Rajeev Ram and Barbora Krejčíková won the Australian Open 2021 Mixed Doubles title by defeating Matt Ebden and Sam Stosur with a scoreline of 61 64.

Excerpts from their press conference is listed below

Rajeev and Barbora, firstly, massive congratulations on winning the mixed doubles Australian Open championship. Just describe what it’s like to have that trophy.

RAJEEV RAM: Yeah, look, it’s phenomenal. This is Barbora’s third time in a row. I was lucky to be next to her for two of them. You know, this is what we play for. We play for Grand Slam titles, and, you know, me as a doubles-only player now, this is half of it, for sure. You know, to be able to share this moment with her and, you know, our teams and our families and all that, it’s pretty special. As a kid this is what you grow up thinking about. For us to do it again is pretty awesome.

What’s the feeling of the third one? How does it compare?

BARBORA KREJCIKOVA: I mean, feeling, it’s amazing feeling. Like, you know, pretty much it’s somewhere in your head, somewhere really far away, you’re trying not to think about it.

But, yeah, I mean, pretty much not really during the match but before the match I already got it in my head and I was like — yesterday when I did the press conference after our doubles finals, I was, like, you know, I really, really wish to get the third one in a row, and, I mean, now it’s happening.

You know, I’m just extremely happy that, I mean, me and my partner, all of my partners, but I mean, especially Rajeev because it’s the second time for us together, that they wanted to play with me and that we have been doing, that we have such a good chemistry and we have been doing so well.

So I just really, I just cannot — really grateful and I just cannot thank them enough for giving me this opportunity to make three in a row.

What were the circumstances of you not playing together last year?

RAJEEV RAM: Oh, I actually picked up a bit of a virus. Well, it could be “the” virus, I have no idea, but I got sick in December last year and I wasn’t able to train. Yeah, just decided that mixed doubles wasn’t something that was going to be a good idea for me. I didn’t know what kind of shape I was in. So that was it, basically. So I didn’t play.

Obviously you have a connection with Craig Tiley of Tennis Australia. We saw you hugging on court. Probably not COVID safe, but, you know, you’re friendly with him. Can you talk to that connection, obviously what he means to you and what this AO means to you because of that?

RAJEEV RAM: Yeah, sure. So before Craig had the job here at Tennis Australia he was the head coach at the University of Illinois, which is where I went to school. In America, college tennis is kind of a big thing. Most people do play college tennis and, you know, it’s a whole long process.

So I didn’t play for very long there, but, you know, he recruited me. We’ve been — well, he’s meant a lot to my tennis, for sure. In a short time he helped me a lot, and we had a great team and great season. That’s kind of a memory that is really right up there for me in terms of my tennis. We definitely share that.

And, yeah, it’s really cool to come back here and see what he does in the tennis world now and, you know, we will always have certainly that history.

Congratulations on your victory. I wanted to ask you both what makes you such a viable team out there? Where does the chemistry come from? Does it get any easier now that you have won two titles?

BARBORA KREJCIKOVA: First of all, thank you so much. I mean, I really appreciate it. I mean, it’s tough to say. We actually played our first match together few years ago, and I think we lost the first round. But, I mean, even when we lost the first round, I already felt that, you know, just Rajeev, he really just nice guy and he really fits in my game.

So, I mean, few years later we just, I think, I don’t know, I text him or he text me, I don’t remember, but we tried it again. I mean, for a second time it just work out so well. I just feel that, you know, I think we understand each other on court and off court. He’s just really easygoing. He’s, like, really really easygoing.

RAJEEV RAM: From my end, look, like she said, we actually played the first time, I can’t remember what year it was, I think it was 2017, and, you know, we barely lost a match to two Aussies, actually, out on, I’m pretty sure it was on John Cain Arena, I don’t remember what it was called back then. Yeah, we played pretty well and didn’t quite get a win.

Then it was a pretty easy decision for me to ask her again because I think she was No. 1 in the world the next time we played together. So it works out pretty good when you’ve got a partner who is better than you are.

And I also wanted to ask, both of you reached the finals of both mixed doubles and your individual discipline, women’s and men’s doubles. Is the approach to play in both mixed and individual doubles the same or differently?

RAJEEV RAM: Well, for me, I can’t speak for her, but for me I play my best when I play with people that I get along with and enjoy and you can feel like you can feed off their energy, they can feed off your energy.

The great part about doubles is it’s a team game. In tennis, in singles it’s not like that. So when we get this situation where we can actually — you can take help from somebody and you can help somebody else, I think it’s important to have that chemistry and connection.

So in that aspect I think it’s really similar. There is obviously maybe some tactical things that are different but I think in that aspect it’s really similar.

Two questions. First, you were both in the hard quarantine, which makes this a pretty sort of
remarkable comeback story to have a team of two people who were stuck in their rooms winning Grand Slam weeks later. So congrats on that. Did each of you think that would be possible? Obviously you both did well in your other draws, too, so you’re just showing off at this point. But this coming back from that, did it feel like it was going to be a big setback, or was it achievable? Obviously you did it, but, yeah. What do you make of having done that?

BARBORA KREJCIKOVA: I mean, you just — you know, I felt like we have been really in touch with Rajeev during the hard lockdown. So I feel, you know, like you just go and play tennis, you know, to, you know, do your best no matter what. No matter what the conditions are, no matter what’s really happening, you just go out there and you just try to forget on everything when you are on court and you just try to play your best tennis.

I mean, even we were in hard lockdown for 14 days and we didn’t have opportunity to play, I mean, after that, you just, you know, you just go out there and you do your best. I mean, it’s really — I mean, it’s really amazing what we actually achieved. I mean, just in like these last couple of weeks.

But, I mean, I just feel — yeah, I just feel really grateful. I just feel really grateful, and I’m just really happy that even, you know, we had to go for this hard quarantine and stuff, it just work out well and maybe that was the key maybe to win the tournament, like, who knows?

She said you two were in communication during the quarantine. What sort of stuff were you keeping up with each other during that time?

RAJEEV RAM: Just kind of checking in. Obviously it’s a tough situation. Look, there’s no way around it when you’re in a room. But, you know, that’s what this country decided to do and rightfully so.

I think we were all in a situation that wasn’t ideal but the best you can do at that point was sort of, you know, check in with your friend, check in with other people that are in the same situation. And, you know, it helps get through it. For sure it helped me get through it. To answer your first question just about was it achievable, I think you kind of have to take it day by day at that point. For me it was like, okay, this is day one now. What are trying to do? Don’t overdo it. I have played tennis for — I’m 36, I played tennis for 34 years, I’m not going to forget how to do it in 14 days. It was just a matter of trying to make sure that physically and mentally you feel like you’re in the right spot. And thinking about winning a tournament is way far away, just what are you going to do day by day.

The French Open and US Open last year both did not hold mixed competitions, I think. So were you at all worried that this mixed would get canceled as well? The mixed might sort of get caught in the cuts that are coming around the COVID restrictions? How happy were you I guess that this tournament could hold mixed? Do you hope it will become a more reliable part of the calendar this year?

RAJEEV RAM: Yeah, I mean, it was unfortunate for sure that the other events didn’t have it. I was really excited that this one did.

Was I ever worried it was going to get cut? Maybe. I mean, yeah, I think when you have situations with government and different things and capacities and all that, I think, yeah, you are worried probably. I tell you what, I wasn’t worried that the singles was gonna get cut. So, you know, definitely, you know, these are the first events to go, but I’m glad they were able to pull it off. I hope it continues. I think it’s one of the more fun events to watch, even as a tennis fan. I think it’s pretty cool.

Mixed doubles is played recreationally at that level quite a lot, and I think it’s very different than men’s doubles, I’ll say. So I think it’s a lot of fun for us to play and really to watch if you’re a tennis fan.

Well done today. Just curious, in your second round you had to save a match point to get through a tough spot and then end up winning your last seven sets to win the title. When you come through a difficult situation like that, does it become more freeing on the court? Because we see that quite a bit in tennis. Naomi did the same thing as well in that players come out of a jam and are able to really produce their best tennis after that point.

RAJEEV RAM: Yeah. You know, I think the last time, we were talking about that actually, the last time we won, I don’t know if we saved a match point a couple years ago but we were getting killed in our first-round match and ended up sneaking through in a breaker and maybe another tiebreaker and we kind of got better as the tournament went on.

I think probably that has, yeah, to what you’re saying, it has some truth. I think a little bit of experience also has some truth that you sort of find your form a little bit better. We played a few more matches and kind of got the competition under our belt, if you will.

You know, both of us were in the hard lockdown, so it was maybe a bit of fitness, a bit of just generally getting better as the tournament went on. I think it was probably a combination of a lot of things in this particular situation.

I just wanted to find out from both of you, you had the opportunity the last couple of days to be able to play in front of fans again. I wanted to find out, especially for the final tonight, how important it was to each of you to be able to win and to celebrate with fans that are watching you.

BARBORA KREJCIKOVA: I mean, to me it felt amazing, you know, after so many tournaments not really having any fans, that we could actually have some people coming out and just support us and cheer for us.

I mean, I really enjoy it, and it was really nice, you know, to celebrate it at the end with, you know, with some fans. I mean, I’m just — you know, I just really appreciate moments like this, because, you know, last couple of tournaments it wasn’t really possible. I mean, I just hope it’s gonna get better soon and we just gonna have more opportunities to play with fans on the other tournaments.

RAJEEV RAM: Yeah, and it was just extra special I think in this particular case because we played Aussies in the finals, too. We played Aussies last time. It was great. Playing with fans is what this is all about for us at this point, at this level. You want to play a Grand Slam final in front of people that want to be there to watch you. It was really cool, even though — I guess we had more support than maybe I thought. Obviously most were cheering for our opponents, but it was still great.

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