The fourth season of the Pro Tennis League (PTL) kicked off in New Delhi on Thursday with more players and international names in the tournament than before. There have been some big names associated with the PTL in the past, but for Divij Sharan, one of the most experienced Indian players on the tour, it will be his first appearance in the tournament. And despite not being recognized by the ATP yet, Sharan thinks the games played will be important, with PTL’s format making it more interesting.
Sharan spoke in an exclusive interview with Hindustan Times about the PTL, the future of competition style tennis events and reflected on his 2022 season. Here are excerpts…
This will be your very first experience playing in the Pro Tennis League. What are your expectations?
Expectations… not really, but I’m sure it’s going to be a lot of fun. Many of my friends play. I’ve seen all the teams and they’re all evenly matched. So it will be very interesting. There will be many close matches. And I’m playing in Delhi, I’m from Delhi, so I’ll have some of my friends come and see me play. I’m super excited to play.
What prompted you to choose PTL?
Every year it has been different. It largely depends on when we finish playing the tournaments that usually take place in November. Then it depends if I take a break or if it’s off season. This time I was in Delhi and connected with Mr. Chauhan and Aditya Khanna (Co-founder of PTL) and it just worked perfectly. I am happy to be part of the competition.
Is there a difference in approach or mindset during such events?
Of course it’s serious. We still want to perform and it’s actually still… you have a cushion when you play your normal games because every point doesn’t matter. If you are behind 0-40, you can win the next four points to win the game. But here every point matters. So that makes it interesting. I feel there will be more pressure. Obviously it’s a team environment, there will be a lot of support, a lot of noise and cheering.
Do you see a future in this form of tennis?
Yes, of course. It’s just that it’s something different. It’s a shorter format, every point counts and fun is involved. If you watch tennis it’s a very gentleman’s game, there’s supposed to be a lull between points and everything is fine. But something like this, the audience can get more involved, they’d like something like that. Competitions are getting better and better, so there is definitely room in the future.
How do you rate your performance when you look back at your 2022 season?
I wouldn’t say it was great. I think I’ve dropped in my standings, but I’ve had a good last 3-4 months winning a few Challengers and making a few finals. But overall I’ve played a lot more matches which is good because it prepares me for next year where I hope to get back to the top 100 (doubles).
What was it like being back in Purav Raja? You two go a long way back, almost a decade, winning your first title together in 2011.
It’s always good to play with him. Something clearly clicks for us. Exactly the way we play, our style of play, fits very well with playing together. So coming back with him and getting good results right away… yeah, it wasn’t a surprise to me. We have had good successes and hopefully we can continue to move up the rankings.
There was a dip in your doubles this year, now you’re back in the top 150. Are you still driven by rankings?
It’s not so much that, but to play the bigger tournaments, your ranking has to be high enough to play in the Tour events or Grand Slams, where you have to be in the top 70/80. In that sense, ranking does become important.
What are your goals for 2023?
The main goal, of course, would be to break into the top-100 and get back into playing the Tour events and the Slams. And if I can get a good run in these bigger events because you know that’s where the big points are, that’s just going to change everything for me.
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