Leander Paes has teamed up with fellow Mumbai’s Purav Raja, who is only the sixth Indian to have paired with the veteran legend on the Pro circuit, for the Winston-Salem Open and the US Open.
Raja formed a very successful pairing with the left- handed Divij Sharan but since they failed to defend 250 points at Los Cabos, where they won the title last year, they lost 15 places each in the ranking list.
With their combined rank of 137 (Sharan 68 and Raja 69) they anticipated that as a team they would not have entered the US Open, where the cut last year was around 130, and they decided to split.
The defending champs lost in the semis in Mexico this year before deciding to go separate ways, at least for the time being. “After Los Cabos we realised we may not make the cut for the US Open,” said Raja, who had dropped to 69 after a career high of 52 earlier in the year. With Sharan also going through a rough patch, Raja approached the 43-year-old.
It was more of a pre-emptive measure by the Indians, who by the looks of it could have got in at the US Open as a team. Paes is ranked 59, which takes his and Raja’s combined ranking to 128. Germany’s Begemann is ranked 66 and along with Sharan, has a combined rank of 134. “In the end I don’t think it would have mattered,” said Raja. “Last year the cut-off was 130 so we had to think ahead. This year the doubles field is weaker, the rankings cut-off has dropped to 150.”
It will be interesting to see how Paes and Raja combine against big-servers. Both of them primarily like to stalk the net, turning to their partners for steady serving and power from the back court. Though they have played Davis Cup together, they are untested in professional waters.
The left-handed Sharan, who had peaked at 51 in July, dropped 15 places in the rankings released on Monday. In the 33-year-old Begemann, he has a partner who has been consistently in the top-100 and has the experience of playing on the big stage. Raja and Sharan are expected to unveil their new partnerships at the ATP 250 Winston-Salem Open beginning on Monday.