It was an exciting week for Indian tennis fans as Sriram Balaji, who last played a singles match in 2019 before this month, stretched former top-30 player Joao Sousa to three close sets in the second round, after coming through the qualifiers. He also beat two top-450 players enroute to the main draw.
Talking to Indian Tennis Daily after this run, Balaji shares his thoughts about his week, his singles career and plan for the upcoming season.
Q) It was a great week for you in singles, stretching Sousa (who took a set off Nishikori at Indian Wells only last week) in a close match, wins over two top-450 players. Your thoughts on run?
Sriram Balaji: I’m very happy to keep playing singles whenever I’m getting a chance. Obviously, my first priority is doubles. Because of that I’m travelling only for challengers. Last year the draw size became very small- it was a draw of 4 for qualifying. So, I didn’t get a chance at all to play singles in the challengers. I feel I don’t want to go to futures and play singles. I don’t want to ruin my doubles ranking playing futures singles. Whenever I get a chance to play in challengers, whenever I get entry, I play. I’m 80% training for doubles. Whenever I’m in Offenburg I train for singles also. I didn’t know he (Sousa) took a set against Nishikori. I just went and I had fun and I played my game.
Q) Can you share your thoughts on the playing conditions? What went through your mind before and after matches??
Sriram Balaji: The playing conditions were actually in my favor. Alicante was at a bit of an altitude; the courts were playing a bit faster. The first three rounds I played on the outside courts. Those courts were a little faster than the last matches I played on Centre court. I was getting more free points on the serve. Obviously, Sousa is a former top-100 player. So, he was returning better than the other guys. But still, the courts I played in the other couple of rounds were a bit faster. My serve was going and I was getting a lot of free points. Whenever I had the chance, I was going to the net to put pressure on them and that was working really well.
Q) Before this month, your last played singles in 2019. Several people on Twitter mentioned that your level was Top 250 at least. How was it playing singles after a long break? Would this week’s performance make you consider playing singles again?
Sriram Balaji: I’m not sure about that (Laughs). As I said, my first priority is doubles. I will keep on trying wherever I get a chance in singles and do my best. Eventually, if I have the top-250 level, even by playing these tournaments and I make quarters or semis I will get to that level, right? I don’t want to go play futures and make that grind. If I get good wins like this my ranking will also go up. I’m not going to change my calendar based on this week’s performance.
Photo Credits: JC Equelite Ferrero Academy (Alicante Challenger)
Q) Your goals for the next season?
Sriram Balaji: Right now, I still have four more weeks of tournaments. I’m training in Offenburg in Frankfurt. I’m going to play four weeks with Divij in Europe. Divij is coming to Offenburg next week. So, we are going to train for one week together and start training for tournaments together. That is the plan for now. The target is to get closer to 120 [ATP Doubles ranking] by the end of this year-in 4 to 5 weeks, so that I can go forward from there next year.
Q) Your plans for the offseason?
Sriram Balaji: I’m still in talks with Waske academy. Mostly I will be doing it with my academy, either in Germany or wherever they do it.