Divij Sharan: Familiarity with Tokyo courts could help us at 2020 Olympics
The tennis matches at the 2020 Olympics will be held at the Ariake Tennis Park, a venue both Divij Sharan and Rohan Bopanna are well acquainted with. Both had reached the quarter-finals of the Japan Open 2019 with respective partners before they were beaten - but not before the Indian tennis duo got vital exposure.
Divij Sharan believes that this familiarity could be a big advantage for the Indian tennis pair at the 2020 Olympics.
“It’s great that the Olympics is happening in Tokyo as both Rohan Bopanna and I know the Tokyo conditions well,” Divij Sharan told the Olympic Channel.
“We played in Palembang and it was a similar surface – a hard court on the faster side. We did well at the Asian Games and Tokyo has a similar surface."
“I love playing in Japan.”
The Rohan Bopanna partnership
Rohan Bopanna, currently ranked 36th in world doubles, and Divij Sharan, ranked 56th, are widely expected to team up to play in the men’s doubles category for India at the 2020 Olympics. The two are Indian tennis’ top-ranked doubles players and could be the nation’s medal prospects in Tokyo.
“We are competing against the top players week in week out, and it’s not something new,” Divij Sharan pointed out. “Both Rohan and me had good results against higher-ranked opponents as well.
“You just need to be prepared for the big stage. I don’t see why we cannot do well at the Olympics,” he insisted.
Divij Sharan and Rohan Bopanna were partners at the beginning of 2019 and they had started with a bang by winning the Tata Open Maharashtra doubles title on home soil, which was Divij Sharan’s fourth title on the ATP tour.
Though the pair mutually decided to end the partnership citing their low combined ranking thereafter, Divij Sharan believes he, along with Rohan Bopanna, are well versed with each other’s games and lack of frequent practice together won’t hinder them.
“I don’t think it’s a problem at all. We have played with each other many times and we still find time to practice with each other,” he reasoned. “I’m sure we will get opportunities to play together before the 2020 Olympics and we’ll be ready for Tokyo.”
India’s next Olympic medal push
Indian tennis’ only medal at the Olympics came at the 1996 Atlanta Games where Leander Paes won the bronze medal in the men's singles.
The mixed doubles pair of Sania Mirza and Rohan Bopanna came extremely close to clinching a bronze at Rio 2016, losing the medal match for third spot.
Divij Sharan believes that a second medal isn’t too far away, provided Indian tennis players get the push in the right direction.
“Tennis is a sport that every country plays and at the end, only three players or teams stand on the podium. But we have had Mahesh Bhupathi, Leander Paes, Sania Mirza and Rohan Bopanna who have done well and come closer to winning a medal. So, it’s not unachievable but a matter of a few extra wins that these guys missed out on."
“I see great programs and schemes in other countries where a lot of players are supported and many tournaments are played well,” he pointed out.
“So, if all those structures come in our country, I am sure we can see players go higher in the ranking and have more chances at the Olympics as well,” he concluded.