“The number of Alt spots opening up in Grand Slam Doubles needs closer scrutiny” – Team BalaJee after 3rd consecutive Grand Slam entry as Alternate

Team Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan and Sriram Balaji made it as alternates to the Wimbledon Doubles main draw and squared off against the French Open Grand Slam champions Austin Krajicek and Ivan Dodig, bowing out with a 6-7 4-6 scoreline in R1. This was the 3rd successive Grand Slam appearance for our team as an alternate. 

ITD caught up with BalaJeevan for their thoughts. 

Thoughts on the match

It was a great opportunity for us given that we were 7th or 8th out, to come in as alternates. I was quite happy with my level having not played for several weeks before Wimbledon. When it mattered in the closer moments at the end of the first set, they made more balls than us. They asked us a lot of questions during this phase and we did not have the answers. 

The second set was completely unlucky. The momentum was completely stopped with the rain delay. They did a better job coming out more ready after the delay and we played a couple of loose points. 

Overall it was a good match. They are a great team and have won a Grand Slam as well. Happy with the way we have played as a team after a month without playing. 

You defeated the same opponents at the Australian Open. 

It is a different match altogether and this is on grass. They know our game as well, we went in with the same approach as we had in Australia. It went to the tie-break similar to Australia, it went our way there but not here. Overall it was a matter of a couple of points here and there which made the difference. 

Talk through the last week when you were 7 spots out.

When the draw first came out, we were 7 spots out and so given the limited chance, we had gone to India for a few days. However before the first day of doubles, we knew SakiYuki were 2-3 spots out and we were a couple of spots behind them. So we were in a similar situation as Australia and I (Balaji) called up Jeevan and we both decided to head out to Wimbledon. We did not want a team ranked lower than us to be playing before us in the main draw. 

The bigger question to ask is why are there so many pullouts happening in doubles?

Jeevan – You always mentioned in interviews on prioritising the big stage events in terms of scheduling. Can you talk through your philosophy here?

It is exactly that. Where we are ranked right now, we will always get our chances in the Challengers. When we have the ATP 250s or the Grand Slams where we have a look-in, we need to give our best preparation towards those big ones. It’s part of being professional. Don’t step on the court if you have not given 100% towards the preparation. 

Thoughts on your doubles partner Austin Krajicek becoming the World No. 1 in Doubles. 

He is a very good friend of mine. He is always in touch whenever I send him a message. He is the same guy, down to earth, not changed much, has a good family and it is always nice when a good guy makes it to the top of the rankings. 

We played together in 2018 and we had a really good run. Further as he got opportunities at the Masters level, which one gets to play on home ground in the US as an American, he seized on those. He is very deserving and is definitely the best doubles player in the world right now. 

You had 2 ATP semis and Grand Slam matches over the past few matches but they don’t get telecast in India. 

We picked up Tennis after seeing Indians compete on the biggest stage in Tennis. It is a bit disheartening that even at the biggest stage like Wimbledon, sometimes our matches are not telecasted. The younger generation needs to see their countrymen play on the biggest stages for them to get inspired. 

This is why it makes Tennis such a difficult sport. It is a great sport and very rewarding if you are at the top but it is an extremely tough road to get there. Financially it can be quite draining, very elite and it is unfortunately not a level playing field for sure. 

You are called the Alternates Express now, having made it 3 times in a row. 

The number of Alt spots that are affecting the rhythm of the sport is something to be questioned because there are a lot of pull outs happening from the singles players. ATP and Grand Slams need to play a closer look at this. 

In a tournament of 32 first rounds, we have about 8 alternate teams making it and questionable effort by few teams – then you are talking about about 30-40% of the first rounds not being the first list of players that come out there. 

Hopefully the ATP and the Grand Slam bodies can have a closer look at this. 

Photos from the match

Indian based in the Alps region. Works for an IT firm during the weekdays und auch lernt Deutsch. On the weekends, he can be traced somewhere in the Mountains or on backpacker trips. Is a Social Worker / Activist with a deeper interest for Indian / Swiss tennis from the past year.

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