“The margins are very little at this level” – Team BalaJee after a spirited display in R2

Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan and Sriram Balaji bowed out in R2 of the Australian Open Mens doubles draw after putting up a spirited display in R1. ITD Member Balaram Dhulipala caught up with them after their R2 match to get their assessment

[R2] (ALT) N. Sriram Balaji (IND)/ Jeevan Neduncheziyan (IND) l. Jeremy Chardy (FRA)/ Fabrice Martin (FRA), 46 46

How do you review the match?

It was a very special moment for us to play on the KIA Arena – 4th biggest court at the Melbourne park. We are humbled to have the opportunity. 

We started off really well. It was just one loose service game which cost us the set. It is very clear at this level that little mistakes can cost us very much. The opponents started serving really well as the match went on and we were able to create only one breakpoint opportunity which we were not able to capitalise. 

There is a reason why they have made Grand Slam finals. They were the better team. 

What was the game plan coming in? You got very little time to recover from the long match yesterday – was that an issue? 

We had very little game plan. We know them pretty well. So we all knew each other’s game pretty well. They just played the pressure points really well. 

They were hitting big on the pressure points. Even on the one breakpoint that we had, they went for a big second serve which was brave on their part. 

In the second set, they served really well and we did not get much of a look-in. 

You both talked about self-belief yesterday. Anything else in terms of game that you feel is the big difference between the Challenger tour and the ATP tour?

The difference is very minute. It is just about the self-belief that matters the most. 

You had your off season in Dubai and in-between at the Leagues. What was the major focus for both of you during the off-season?

During the leagues, we had our trainer with us. We mostly focused on strengthening ourselves. The Leagues in Pune was also planned in such a way that we prepared ourselves for the ATP Maharashtra Open as we were playing on the stadium court. 

The matches in the league really helped us bring out our best game on that exact same court. 

Both of you have been calling out the support of Mr Patil of KPIT in several of your interviews much before the Dubai camp – can you detail some of the contribution from Mr Patil towards doubles players?

It is very heartening to have someone come out and support the Doubles players. It is very difficult to find any sponsors, even when you are a top singles player. So we are thankful to the support of Mr Patil. 

This program is helping us in terms of support with the physios and the trainers. We are getting support with doubles specialist coaches like Jeff Coetze, Jonathan Murray and so on. With the fine margins in doubles, these inputs are very crucial in terms of turning the results around. 

Without Mr Patil & KPIT support, it would have been extremely difficult for us to fund a coach to travel with us as it’s just not financially viable for us. Finally we have a proper professional setup arranged for us, thanks to KPIT. 

Any of the upcoming players from India whom you have been keeping a tab on?

Jeevan: I saw Manas Dhamne play for the first time at the ATP Maharashtra Open in Pune. I see a lot of potential in his game and I wish him the very best towards continued success. I hope he makes the best choices towards becoming the best player that he can be. 

We also saw Shruti Ahlawat play and she has potential. It would be nice if these talented juniors can translate their promise onto the pro tour. 

Sriram Balaji: As senior players, we are always there for the Junior players in case they need any help and I wish them all the very best. 

What’s your schedule like for the next couple of months? Are you playing the Indian Challengers?

We will enrol for the ATP 250s and make a decision based on where we make the cut to decide between playing the ATP Tour vs the Challenger tour. 

There has been a dearth of singles players in India recently. What is your take on this?

The Juniors need to focus on what their Tennis centres and the support staff are saying. Funding is not the only issue here. If a player starts investing their earnings back into Tennis, make the right decisions towards becoming a professional tennis player – things will start to happen. 

Of Course it would be nice to have Govt & Federations support to aid in what Tennis centres to train in and who the travelling coaches will be, planning the off-season and so on. 

Beyond that, it really comes down to 

  1. What kind of coaching they get
  2. Mindset that the parents are bringing to their child
  3. What they can fund their tennis with and find a way to invest back into their tennis
  4. Train and travel like a true professional

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