Having just won his first ever ATP 250 title,partnering Purav Raja at Bogota last month,Divij Sharan is riding high. The 27-year-old called the win the highest point in his career after a string of lows. Busy packing and getting his paperwork done on the eve of his departure to participate in the US Open,he takes time out to speak to Tanya Rudra about his journey so far and his plans ahead. Excerpts:
On how he started playing tennis
I was a sporty kid and played almost every sport under the sun. I picked up a tennis racquet for the first time when I was seven and the opening of a tennis academy at my school Modern School (Vasant Kunj) changed my life. I began training under Rajender Jaiswal at the junior level and eventually moved to DLTA to get more expertise. After a short stint at the RK Khanna Tennis Academy,I started training with Aditya Sachdeva at the Siri Fort Sports Complex,and I have been with him for the last eight years. I have been extremely lucky. My family has been really supportive. My mother used to travel with me when I was playing on the junior circuit and that was not easy for her.
On partnering Purav Raja
Purav and I get along very well on and off the court. Both of us are very serious about doubles and have been playing together for almost a year now. Having a consistent partner is a huge advantage. A regular partner understands your game well and there is a better level of understanding. There is a greater scope for improvement and you need to pick up from where you left off.
On getting into the main draw at Wimbledon
Going to Wimbledon for the first time was phenomenal. Even though we had a tough loss (in the first round),I took the positives from it and only got motivated to do better next year. I wish they played more tournaments on grass since it is my first love.
On India’s young players
There is an entire lot of young players in India. My Davis Cup teammates from last year – Sanam Singh,Vishnu Vardhan,Yuki Bhambri,Saket (Myneni) and Sriram Balaji will make a lot of difference in the future. They are young and up for any challenge. Somdev Devvarman is already there. He is a cut above the rest . Tennis is definitely not an easy sport. You need to motivate yourself constantly. Almost every country plays tennis which makes it extremely popular as well as highly competitive. It takes a lot to excel as a singles player and Somdev has done it. He is number one in India and soon he will make it back to the top 100 in the world.
On life as a tennis pro
Playing professional tennis is a tedious job and my life revolves around it. People think we lead a very glamorous life but they don’t understand how difficult it is. We manage everything ourselves and keep shuffling between airports,hotels and tennis courts. Still I have no complaints as I am doing what I aspired to do,what I love the most. I think I have been very lucky as most of the people do not get what I have and I cherish it.
On the future of tennis in India
Cricket and football can be played anywhere,but not tennis. You need proper infrastructure. Although cricket takes the limelight,I am glad that the awareness is increasing day by day. Sports like tennis,golf and badminton are becoming popular in India and that is a positive sign.
On his goals
I would like to win at least one Grand Slam in my career. With the current structure it is not going to be easy,though. You have to win everything possible at the Challengers stage. All the opportunities need to be capitalized on. There are points to defend in order to make it to the big tournaments.
I also wish to make it to the Top 10 in doubles and I think that is a very realistic goal. I am going to the US open in anticipation of making it to the main draw but everything depends on the ranking. Even if I don’t make the cut,I will be content with all that I have achieved this year.