“We played well the whole week” – Balaji & Begemann on winning the Wolfkran Open Challenger in Ismaning

Sriram Balaji and Andre Begemann won their second challenger together in 3 weeks at the at the ATP Wolfkran Challenger in Ismaning, Germany.  They beat the local pair of Constantin Frantzen and Hendrik Jebens 7-6(4), 6-4.

We caught up with them after their win. Excerpts below:

Q: Thoughts on today’s win.

Balaji: We had a great week. Me & Andre right from the first round. Every match was tough. Yesterday in the semi finals, we were a match point down. We took that confidence from yesterday’s win & just played strong. We played the same team two weeks before in Bratislava. They are not easy. Both of them are serving bombs & we just have to find a way. It is good that both of us were serving well. We had a chance to break them & we took it & it went well.

Andre: It was a high class match. Here in the carpet, balls are going so fast & it can go either way. I think we put in a little more pressure earlier on in the match & had some break points though we didn’t break. I had a feeling that we would get a chance maybe in the tie breaker to get a mini break & then that is what happened. Got the first set & then continued putting more pressure. I think we really played a high class match today. I am really happy with our performance.

Q. Andre, it is your second title together in 3 weeks. What is it that you like playing with Balaji?

Andre: First of all, I was out for two years. And for me the decision to come back was only to play with a guy that I like & see a future with. So when he called me up maybe 6-7 weeks ago, I was really excited because I know him off the court & he is a great guy. And on the court he had already a fabulous year. I was really happy that he called me. We share the practice court in Frankfurt. I know he likes Germany. So that’s a plus. It makes it way more fun travelling with a guy that you like & spend time both on & off the court. We travel so much so it is very special.

Q: Balaji, You had a pretty good season making the ATP 250 finals in Pune & making 3 out of 4 grandslams as an alternate. What did you think of your overall season this year?

Balaji: We started the year well making the final in Pune & then getting in as alternate in Australia & winning a round that too beating the number 1 team. Right now they are number 1 but then they were in the top 10 still. So the year went really good.

In between when Jeevan got injured & I had to look for different partners, it was little bit of struggle with different partners & our graph went down a little bit. And then once he got back, we decided to try few weeks with different partners and then see.

And here luckily, I had Andre & we had played Club matches together in Frankfurt. I approached him & that is how we started playing together.

Q: We are coming to the end of season. What are your plans for the off season?

Balaji: I have two more weeks of tournaments left. I am going to Helsinki tomorrow & after that it is Sweden, two Challengers. And then hopefully finish in the top 60. That is the ranking target. And then after that go home & take two weeks off to spend time with my family. And then we will have a camp in the last two weeks of the year organized by the Doubles Dream of India. Bops is helping with the program. We will have two weeks of camp before we start the next year.

Q: Have you thought about setting goals for next year?

Balaji: Definitely! I want to go deep in slams. But first of all, I need to get entry into the slams & go deep in the slams. That is the target. I will be (ranked) 75-76 after today’s win. Hopefully I can get inside the 60s so that I can stay there & play the tour events consistently. So that is the goal.

Q: This week you had Balu sir with you. He was also there in Bratislava thanks to the Doubles Dream of India Project. How is it working for you?

Balaji: It is definitely a big big step. Congrats & thanks to the sponsor, KPIT, Mr. Kishor Patil. Rohan Bopanna is helping them co-ordinating everything. It is a big project & not easy to run this. And it is definitely helping all the boys not just me or Yuki or Arjun. We all won the tournaments. Balu sir travelled four weeks in a row & every week there was somebody winning the tournament. I don’t think anything has happened like this before. I think it is great to have these kinds of sponsors.

Balu sir sitting side by side is helping a lot. Every point someone is there. When we are on the court, we don’t know exactly in the pressure moments what we are doing wrong or what is happening. Someone watching a match & telling us what to do in pressure moments makes a lot of difference.

A software engineer & keen follower of Olympic sports

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