It is a little amusing that Purav Raja applies the classical format of romantic tales when describing how his partnership with Divij Sharan came about.
“Well, we have been on the same circuit for some years now and always meant to play together, but somehow never got to it. At the end of
last year, we thought we would really give it a go. One thing led to another, and here we are now."
Here, being the doubles main draw at Wimbledon.
Raja and Sharan made the cut when Andreas Haider-Maurer of Austria and Jiri Vesely of the Czech Republic gave them a walkover in the second round of the qualifiers on Wednesday.
"We didn't ask for it, but we'll take it," says the Mumbai-based Raja of the somewhat anticlimactic end to their qualifying campaign. Seeded fourth, the Indian pair had beaten the experienced duo of Flavio Cipolla and Wayne Odesnik 6-2, 6-4 in the first round.
A first for India
The duo will make their Grand Slam debut at Wimbledon.
It is also the first time that India will have as many as five players in the doubles draw --- Leander Paes, Mahesh Bhupathi and Rohan Bopanna are the others. But Raja-Sharan will be the only all-Indian pair in the men's doubles at the tournament.
"It's been about two years now that we are both focused on our doubles," says Sharan, who hails from Delhi. "I struggled a bit last year because I didn't have a consistent partner. That's why we thought of getting together.
"Purav is really strong from the ad court, while I have been playing on the deuce side for some time now. We are working on our game and setting long-term goals as a team. And I think that's showing in the results."
They have reached four ATP Challenger finals this year and won the title in Kyoto in March. The left (Sharan)-right combination also gives them an edge in doubles play.
"That's definitely an advantage," says Raja. "It's a different look that the opponents have to tackle every service game."
Having slogged on the Futures and Challengers circuit, sacrificing their singles ambitions, Raja and Sharan, both 27, have finally made the tide turn in their favour. Like their Indian predecessors, they are quick at the net and
Wimbledon's manicured lawns will only enhance that quality.
If they do end up going deep in the draw, chemistry would have something to do with it.
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