While Rohan Bopanna has changed 13 partners in the last year, Divij Sharan has played alongside 10 players at the same time.
Rohan Bopanna, ranked 37th in the ATP doubles ranking and his erstwhile partner Divij Sharan, ranked 56, are the two Indian tennis men’s doubles players who are currently placed high enough to qualify for the 2020 Olympics.
The duo had paired at the 2019 Tata Open Maharashtra, an ATP 250 tournament, in the beginning of the year following a successful Asian Games campaign in 2018, where they had won the gold medal in the men’s doubles category.
And while the promising partnership fetched them an instant title in Pune, it fizzled out within a month. And following a round of 16 exit at the 2019 Dubai Tennis Championships, Rohan Bopanna and Divij Sharan mutually decided to part ways, only playing occasionally after.
Rohan Bopanna has changed 13 partners in the last one year while Divij Sharan has played alongside 10 in the same period. And the Indian tennis duo revealed the thought process that goes behind choosing a doubles partner in an interview with the Olympic Channel.
As it turns out, the primary reason behind finding a new partner is to get into bigger tournaments with better combined rankings – which was the reason why they decided to split in the first place.
“Our rankings weren’t high enough to get into a lot of tournaments. The French Open is the cut-off date for the 2020 Olympics and once we qualify for it, we have the entire grass-court season,” explains Indian tennis veteran Rohan Bopanna.
“Someone ranked higher up wouldn’t want to play with a lower-ranked player as it wouldn’t help anyone get into big tournaments. Hence, changing partners frequently helps,” pointed out Divij Sharan.
Interestingly, both Rohan Bopanna and Divij Sharan have different takes on how they try and acclimatize with new partners.
“You try to pair up with someone who complements your style,, to begin with,” believes Indian tennis ace Divij Sharan. “If one has a different game style than yours, it generally doesn’t work out. Everyone wants to do well, and players change partners to find out the best available option.”
For Rohan Bopanna, his sights are set elsewhere. “The best procedure that has worked for me is to keep it simple. I have always focused on improving my game and not think about what my partner can or cannot do.
“The idea with a new partner is to play very simple tennis – the right kind of tennis and not experiment too much. It has worked for me very well,” he claimed.
Though Bopanna and Sharan have played in bits and pieces together since parting ways, like in the Winston-Salem Open and the Stockholm Open last year, Rohan Bopanna believes that preparing for a tournament doesn’t require two players to play together for long.
“There are many players around who don’t partner compatriots before the Olympics. It’s not something a doubles player is too bothered about.
“I have realized that to prepare for a tournament, one doesn’t need to prepare for a long time. Two-three weeks prior to the tournament is enough,” Rohan Bopanna explained.
The cut-off date for the tennis Olympic qualification is June 8 following which the National Olympic Committees (NOCs) will decide the team to be sent to Tokyo 2020.