Not a whole lot to celebrate in Indian tennis: JeevanNovember 15, 2017
PUNE: It has been a stand-out year for Indian men’s tennis. Besides Ramkumar Ramanathan and Yuki Bhambri going deep into main draws of Tour events in singles, the rise of Divij Sharan, Purav Raja and Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan on the doubles tour has warmed the cockles of fans’ hearts.
However, one of those protagonists says that things are not all that rosy and players have overcome several odds to achieve their success, with little or no help from the system.
“For a country that has as many people as we do, what these players have done is quite exceptional, because there is no system, nothing to drive you,” Jeevan said on the sidelines of the $50,000 KPIT ATP Challenger tournament.
“Each one of us could have said ‘we are not going to continue’. There is not a whole lot to celebrate in that regard. We could easily have a lot more players coming through more consistently if there was a system. Hats off to those players for what are willing to commit to play tennis full time.
“There is no external factor that creates a system, a training base or a hub which will help the players improve. Just giving players money for the Asian Games and the Olympics for that period is not going to help.”
Jeevan is currently ranked 97 in doubles, after a slide from the career-high 75 he touched in March this year. It may not seem impressive considering that he was ranked 100th at the start of the year, but remarkable when taken into account that the 29-year-old was 211 at the end of 2015. It all started when Jeevan reached the semifinals of the Chennai Open in 2016 with Somdev Devvarman and it helped him decide to focus solely on doubles.
It proved to be a tough season.
“The year 2016 was by far the hardest mentally … I was travelling alone all over the world, trying to perform in higher tournaments with partners from whom I didn’t know what kind of effort I am going to get since I wasn’t ranked high,” he said.
“The singles players would prioritise singles and wouldn’t give exactly 100 percent. It was exciting, frustrating and challenging. A different journey altogether.”
Rohan Bopanna gave him more than a helping hand.
“In the beginning of 2016, I spoke to Rohan. Told him ‘Listen, if I managed to crack top-150, as a friend why don’t you play a Tour event with me and give me an opportunity?’ He was more than happy to do it.”
That opportunity came later in the season when both paired at the ATP 250 Series event in Chengdu, China. The duo defeated Feliciano Lopez, who won the French Open that year, and Juan Monaco in the first round. Although they lost in the second round, Bopanna was obviously impressed with Jeevan’s effort, and the latter promptly pitched for playing together at the Chennai Open in 2017 if he managed to crack the top-100.
Jeevan did finish 2016 ranked 100 and Bopanna “lived up to his word”. The combination went on to win the title in Chennai.
“It was not hard for a lot of people to see that when it worked out with Rohan for me in the Chennai Open, it was a process that took six months, a process of me working hard to get to a higher ranking, me having that vision and the schedule and the mind,” Jeevan said.
“Regardless of whether you are playing singles or doubles, it is something players in India have to focus on … playing a schedule which has many stronger tournaments.
“And having a vision of what you want to achieve should be the first priority before thinking about defending points, do I need to enter this tournament, what is my ranking going to be inside India. All these things should go out of your mind.
“You have to start focusing on playing the highest level possible and how to get to a higher level, instead of sticking to easier tournaments. That will make a lot of difference.”
It was not only court, but Jeevan struck a successful partnership off the court as well — he got married to women’s golfer Neha Tripathi.
“We are supportive of each other’s career. She completely understands the number of weeks that I need to travel, the regime I need to maintain and vice versa. It’s not a quite easy thing given that we don’t meet each other often. But we are sportspeople and having separate goals to drive both of us helps.
“As much as we would like to spend time together, we are keeping our career as a high priority. That’s what we both want as of now.”
As he winds up the season, Jeevan has happy reasons to look forward to 2018. He will be having Christopher Rungkat, the Indonesian ranked 122nd in doubles and with whom he has had a strong partnership before.