Two years ago, four Indians were vying for their first trophy at the Chennai Open. Back then in 2017, it was Rohan Bopanna who stopped Divij Sharan from a potential third ATP tour title. That in fact was the only occasion in Divij's doubles career when he had failed to get over the line in a title clash.
As a 27-year-old, Divij won his maiden ATP title at the Bogota tournament in 2013. The second took three years to come by and was bagged in Mexico at Los Cabos in 2016. Both titles were won in partnership with Purav Raja. Divij, who achieved his career-best ranking of 36 in 2018, clinched his third at the European Open in Antwerp with experienced Scott Lipsky by his side.
When Sharan steps on court with Bopanna, a former World No.3, on Saturday in the Tata Open Maharashtra doubles final at the Balewadi Tennis Stadium, he will have the latter's experience to guide him through in his second final at India's only ATP tournament. His senior partner already sees making the final as 'a big positive' for them. The crowd too has started to fill up the stadium.
This being the first week of their new partnership on tour, they 'haven't had much time to practice together'. The Jakarta Asian Games gold medallists are still figuring out the patterns that will help them constantly put pressure on their opponents.
There will be slip-ups and caution in their approach but the Delhi lad knows it is up to him now to make it count. For that he needs to relax and play his natural game. As of now, as top seeds, both ranked in the late 30s, they don't look as though they are bringing their A-game to the table. 'Cautious' and keeping the ball in play seemed to be their strategy.
"I think we played a better match today, the key would be to come out tomorrow and play freely," noted Divij.
'Play freely' - that will be key to their success against the English duo of Luke Bambridge and Jonny O'Mara.