“I have learnt a lot about Doubles from Divij Sharan” – Niki Poonacha, ATP Top-150 Doubles player

Niki Poonacha spoke to Deepthi Indukuri on the sidelines of the ITF M15 event in Davangere and touched upon 

(a) Entry into the top-150 of the ATP Doubles rankings (b) Partnering with Divij Sharan in doubles (c) Balancing his singles and doubles priorities

On getting into the ATP Top-150 in the doubles rankings

Being ATP Top-150 in doubles is really good. It’s an achievement, definitely. I did prioritize doubles for last two and a half months, playing 11 weeks of these challengers. I learnt a lot playing with Divij. My doubles game improved, I would say thanks to him.

On balancing singles and doubles

The priority is still playing both. It is not just doubles. That’s why I took some time off to play just the singles in Indian ITFs. Unfortunately, the first 25K didn’t go well. I had some pain in my wrist, so I had to retire. This week I’m feeling confident, playing good. I’ll be looking to play more both.

On the partnership with Divij Sharan

It’s going really well. He’s a very experienced doubles player. He has taught me a lot, and we’ve been discussing strategies, what works best for both. What I can do to complement his game and what he can do to complement my game. I’ve been learning a lot from him.

He’s been a great teacher, a great friend, very chill, and always motivating and pushes you to never give up. We are going to play in Japan in the 4 weeks of Challengers. We are looking to play more of doubles but I am hoping to play singles as well.

How did the partnership come about?

I just randomly saw his name on the list of players looking for partners and I figured I’ll ask him. We just played for one week in Porto, Portugal. We lost in the second round, but we made a plan to play something after three weeks again, because I was already picked.

It didn’t go well at the start, of course. We had to fine-tune but we ended up winning the Challenger 100 in Alicante, so that’s a really good motivation for us to keep going.

Are top-100 and Grand Slam debut goals for the next year?

Top 100 is the goal,I would say. I’m not going to take my pedal off from singles and doubles. It would be nice to play Grand Slam next year, definitely. Debut will be nice in any one of the Grand Slam, so that’s the goal.

I would prioritize more doubles this year since we are almost season-end, just four weeks left. Next year, to start with, depends where I’m in doubles. If I do well in the coming four weeks, I would still look to play doubles, but then if I can get some singles in, I would definitely do that.

Once I start playing Grand Slam, that’s when I think one discipline will take off. But nothing concrete,

You mentioned learning from Divij.

He knows what to play doubles.

I played doubles like singles but he taught me how to and where to position. We did a lot of work. Even on off day, we would never take an off day, we would just go on court, train specifically, and more like movements, where to be on court, where to look for the ball and everything.

So that way he has been really helpful. And I would happily say that my volleys have improved. So that’s good about it.

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