January 4, 2019 8:24:17 pm
Rohan Bopanna and Divij Sharan came back from the brink for the second match in a row to reach the final of the Tata Open Maharashtra, taming Simon Bolelli and Ivan Dodig in a thriller in Pune on Friday. The top-seeded Indians, playing first time on Tour as a team, knocked out the Italian-Croatian combine 6-3 3-6 15-13 in one hour and 33 minutes after saving two match points in the Super Tie Break. They had saved six match points on Thursday against Leander Paes and Miguel Angel Reyes-Varela before winning.
It was tough test for the new Indian team as it was up against players, who have a Grand Slam crown each to their credit, and the home team played better than its previous clash. Bolelli, a top-50 singles player in 2009, had won the 2015 Australian Open doubles with fellow Italian Fabio Fognini while Dodig also won his first and only men’s doubles Grand Slam crown in the same year at French Open with Marcelo Melo.
Bopanna, as usual, was solid with his returns while left-hander Sharan put up a better show than Thursday. It will be the first final on the ATP World Tour for both the players. Bopanna last played a final when he won the Vienna event in October 2017 with Pablo Cuevas and Sharan won the Antwerp title with Scott Lipksy in the same month.
“We played a better match today, happy to ride the wave. It was completely different from yesterday, these guys were returning stronger,” said Bopanna. “To have an Indian team back on tour is good and we are improving. But it will take some time to set patterns. We have not played much together and need some off-court practice together,” he added.
Sharan, who struggled with his serve, said he it’s a work in progress but he still has “spots” where he can get points. “I am not putting much spin to the ball. Conditions were different from yesterday and I was not finding my rhythm. Tomorrow, the key will be to play freely and fight for every point,” the Delhi lad said.
In a fast-paced match, the top seeds from India broke Dodig in the eighth game to nose ahead. Bopanna created the opportunity with a service return winner and then Sharan was locked an interesting volley-rally battle which ended with Bolleli chipping one over the baseline.
Serving for the set, Bopanna began with consecutive double faults and was down by a deciding point but the big-serving Indian ensured that advantage was not lost. In the second set, the Croatian-Italian combine broke Sharan in the fourth game. After serving a double fault, Sharan gave a free point to opponents when one of his returns hit Bopanna.
On the next point, Dodig found a volley winner to earn two break chances. With both Indians standing in the middle of the court, Bolleli hit a deep looping return. Sharan ran hard to cover the ground and managed to connect his forehand but it went long, giving the unseeded team a 3-1 lead.
A solid hold from Dodig pushed them ahead 4-1. Bopanna struggled to pick a half volley at 30-30 in the next game to be down by a break point but he saved that and also the deciding point with a strong serve.
Sharan served to stay alive in the set and the error-littered game put them down by two set points but still, they managed to save the game. The Indians had a chance to get the break in the next game but Sharan could put the return inside the lines when Bolelli served on the deciding point.
The Indians went down by a match point at 8-9 but Bopanna hit a backhand winner to save that. Up 13-12, Bopanna hit one long to squander a fourth match point. Bolelli hit long to give the Indians their fifth match point and it was converted when Dodig hit a return out. They will now fight it out for the title with the British pairing of Luke Bambridge and Jonny O Mara.