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CHENNAI:Over the past few weeks, Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan has been criss-crossing Asia, playing doubles in Challenger tournaments in China, South Korea, Uzbekistan and Thailand. The result has been a steady rise in the rankings to a career-best 129 in doubles earlier this month (currently 131).
But his story is another instance of a once up-and-coming singles player turning to doubles to sustain a professional career in the sport. Speaking about the reasons behind his switch to doubles, Jeevan says, “Being 27, now I want to see myself competing in the Grand Slams and if doubles is the more logical way to achieve that goal then I will have to prioritise it.”
Jeevan, who has seven Futures singles titles in his bag adds, “I still enjoy playing singles whenever I can. But I will base my schedule around higher prize money events that will help my doubles progression.”
The Chennai lad explains the challenges in competing in singles at top level for an athlete coming from India and rues the lack of structured programme that has seen many promising juniors fail to make the leap.
“Creating a top 100 player from Asia requires many factors to fall in place from finding committed sponsors to a great team to support your every need. I feel there isn’t any structural development programme to make it happen in India. Travelling and training abroad can get expensive without any sponsors and it just became a smarter decision for myself personally to focus my energy on cracking into the top 100 in doubles and playing tour events.”
To make up for not having a travelling coach, Jeevan recently tied up with former India Davis Cup player Harsh Mankad’s digital venture Tenicity to help him analyse his game during Challenger events.
“Harsh was helping me tactically by watching my matches on live stream while at the Challengers and gave me valuable information which helped me play better round by round.
Earlier in the year, Jeevan partnered Somdev Devvarman for the Chennai Open and the duo reached the semifinals where they lost to Benoit Paire and Austin Kraijeck and it was this run that prompted Jeevan to turn to doubles more seriously. “We had a good run to the semifinals and I saw this as a good platform to build my doubles career.
“The Chennai Open was a good start to the year and after the week ended I really felt that we were capable of winning a tour event given a few more opportunities. I have travelled primarily in Asia and played on the ATP Challenger tour since then and the past few weeks I’ve had a string of good results. 300 points in the past four Challengers is a good start to 2016. And I will need to keep improving and learning how to maximise my potential in doubles and make the transition from Challenger events to tour events.”
While the Chennai lad doesn’t yet have a permanent doubles partner, he is not in a hurry to look for one and prefers to wait as he finds his feet in doubles. “It’s definitely better to have a permanent partner but I will be looking for the ideal type to compliment my game style to make us the most effective team.”