One can’t help but root for Divij Sharan and Purav Raja as they come on Court 1 for their semi-final against Guillermo Duran and Andres Molteni at the Chennai Open. The Argentine duo have the better ranking and more experience under their belt but the Indian pairing have the crowd support and momentum on their side. Over and above that, Sharan and Raja have no air of arrogance about them even though they’ve moved into the top-70 rankings – inching closer to Leander Paes’ 59 in the world. They’ve been going about their business and moving up the ranks by winning four Challengers and an ATP event in 2016.
Even though the Argentines are younger and have the legs to back themselves, the Indians weren’t phased one bit in their near convincing 6-4, 6-2 win.
In their win over Paes and Andre Sa in the previous round, Sharan served brilliantly and was complimented beautifully by Raja at the net in their much perfected I-formation. Paes would later say that Sharan’s serving made plenty of difference and got them out of the logjam in numerous positions.
That trend continued on Friday too with the left-hander serving remarkably and Sharan producing gorgeous deft volleys at the net that left no chance for the Argentine duo who would prefer to play from the back.
Such would be their dominance that they would drop only three points on their serve – one in the second game on Sharan’s serve and two in the tenth game on Raja’s serve.
In the first set, Molteni would be broken in the third game and give the Indian duo the advantage early on. They would never let go of it with some exquisite play at the net by Purav. In terms of serving, the Indian combination would win 81% of the points on their first serve and not face any break points.
The second set, however, would be a complete reverse. Both teams would lose serve on a consistent basis but the Indian duo would break their Argentine counterparts all four times and would need just one break point opportunity in each instance.
Set would infact start off with three straight breaks to break the momentum of the first until Divij would hold to take a 3-1 lead.
Purav would display some breathtaking skills in the fifth game, first with a half volley smash pick up near the middle of the court and then an outright winner on Duran’s serve to further their advantage.
If the Indian combination weren’t handing Duran/Molteni much chances, they weren’t taking the ones that did arise. Duran would miss an absolute sitter on his forehand by sending the ball long in the sixth game but go on to break.
The just over an hour-long contest would be over in fitting style – a deft volley at the net by Raja and the passage into the final would be sealed.
In the final, they play either another Indian pairing in RohanBopanna and JeevanNedunchezhiyan or Nicholas Monroe/ArtemSitak.