CHENNAI: Doubles pair N Sriram Balaji and Vishnu Vardhan believe they will tick a major item off their bucket list this year. Playing at Wimbledon. The duo, who won the Chennai Open Challenger last week, have the math worked out and feel that the stars are aligning.
“The cut for Wimbledon doubles qualifiers last year was 233,” Balaji says. “After this tournament, I will be at 115 and Vishnu at 101. By that reckoning, we should get into the field.” But they have set their sights higher than that: the main draw.
“Our plan is to keep playing Challengers till June. We are not defending many points at that level so we believe that if we can keep performing and improving, we will climb up the rankings further,” Balaji adds. The aim is for both to be inside the top-80 (last year’s combined cut was 160) by June.
Their meteoric rise is remarkable, considering that it was only in December that they started a two-month crowdfunding campaign to enable them to complete a full season on the Tour. They started it with the intention of raising close to $100,000. If they had secured that much, it would have given the two the luxury of travelling for close to 35 weeks with a full-time coach. They closed the campaign last month, having raised only $3,500.
While there is a hint of disappointment in Vardhan’s voice when he describes their campaign to raise money, he is happy that the Indian duo gave it a go in the first place. “We are not new to the circuit,” Vishnu says. “I am 30, Balaji is 27-28. We had tried potential sponsorship opportunities before, but nothing worked out. That was the reason behind this online (crowdfunding) campaign. It didn’t turn out the way we would have liked it to, but it’s not really a problem. Tomorrow, we shouldn’t be in a position to say, ‘maybe we should have tried that thing’.”
Another thing they will be trying in 2018 is to make doubles their priority. “Till last year, both of us were prioritising singles, with doubles acting like a second wheel,” Vishnu explains. “This year, we have decided to make doubles our priority. We will still play singles, but doubles will be the main thing for us.” They also have one eye on the upcoming Asian Games in Jakarta, even if it clashes with the US Open. They will make a decision closer to the continental bash, but they know what they will want to prioritise.
“It’s not like we will be defending points if we play the US Open, and at the same time, we don’t want to miss it either,” Vishnu said. “However, the Asian Games are held only once in four years, unlike the US Open. At this moment, the Asian Games is a priority for us.” If they continue winning, not many will argue against them.