Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan (left) and Rohan Bopanna with their Chennai Open trophies
Eastern Eye Staff
Rohan Bopanna and Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan, playing together for only the second time, notched up a memorable victory in an historic all-Indian doubles final, as they outplayed compatriots Divij Sharan and Purav Raja in the Chennai Open last Sunday (8).
World number 28 Bopanna and Jeevan beat their compatriots 6-3, 6-4 in just 65 minutes to win their first title together and deny Sharan and Raja their third at this level.
It is the first time that an Indian team has clinched the Chennai Open trophy since legends Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi took the title in 2011.
That pair, also known as the Indian Express, won five titles at the Nugumbakkam Stadium during their glorious careers.
It was Bopanna’s 15th career title and the first since June 2015 when he won the Stuttgart trophy with Florin Mergea. He lost two finals last season in Sydney and Madrid.
Sharan and Raja, who have two titles (Bogota, 2013) and (Los Cabos, 2016), lost a final for the first time in their third appearance together.
It was a big win for Nedunchezhiyan, who played his first ATP final after making a recent shift from singles to focus on a doubles career. The Chennai player has three doubles titles on the Challenger circuit.
The final was littered with breaks, and surprisingly Sharan and Raja could not play the way they had en route to the final, where they knocked out Paes and Andre Sa.
Of the four players on court, Nedunchezhiyan was the least experienced at this level, but his serve stood out and was the only one not to concede a break in the match.
Not only did he serve well, he played smartly too, often creating chances with his angled winners. His accurate delivery set up Bopanna at the net for easy winners.
Bopanna felt the all-Indian final was great for the game in the country.
“It’s a big step forward for Indian tennis. Who knows if it inspires a kid to pick up a racquet? It’s a huge win for Indian tennis,” Bopanna, who has teamed up with Pablo Cuevas for the 2017 season, said.
He praised Nedunchezhiyan’s display, adding: “My job was to keep him relaxed. Even Purav and Divij felt the pressure. We played better as a team. There were chances for both teams and we took more.”
Nedunchezhiyan said it was tough to beat Sharan and Raja. “They are not someone who give easy points. We were able to communicate better during change overs to counter their ‘I’ formation.
“Rohan kept going for his big returns. It’s a great start for me to the season,” the diminutive left-hander, who will team up with Indonesia’s Christopher Rungkat for three weeks after the Australian Open, said.