London: Purav Raja and Divij Sharan have set their sights on joining the Indian doubles elite by winning their first Grand Slam title at Wimbledon.
Raja and Sharan ended their long wait for a first victory at the All England Club as they defeated Kyle Edmund and Joao Sousa 7-6 (7/2), 3-6, 6-4, 7-6 (8/6) in a tense first round clash lasting more than three hours.
India has a rich history of doubles success, with Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi winning the Wimbledon men's doubles crown in 1999.
Rohan Bopanna is a mixed doubles Grand Slam champion, while Sania Mirza has won a host of major titles in women's and mixed doubles.
"Leander, Rohan, Mahesh, Sania, we look up to all of them. In the doubles world unless we win a Slam we aren't competing with those guys," Raja told AFP.
"We have a lot to live up to and we have a long way to go until we are in their category.
"I would take a Grand Slam anywhere, but Wimbledon is big. England is a second home for Indians.
"We have a lot of crowd support and we feel at home here. Wimbledon is big in India and holds that extra special feeling for us."
After a strong year so far, including a titles in Bordeaux and a last 16 appearance at the French Open, Raja and Sharan are hoping to make their breakthrough at the All England Club.
Asked if they could win the title, Sharan said: "That's what we have been working for.
"Wimbledon is a mecca for tennis. Everyone knows Wimbledon. It's great coming back here. It's obviously big.
"Grass is our favourite surface. We're just really happy to be here and playing the way we are."
The 31-year-olds had to dig deep to see off Edmund and Sousa, with the turning point their ice cool play in two tie-breaks.
"We've been preparing a lot to play under pressure and I think our system holds firm under pressure. We proved that once again," Raja said.
"We've lost a couple of heart-breakers here before. It's good to come through.
"We believe in our system and ourselves. So hopefully we can play our best tennis as the tournament goes further."
Like many players on Wednesday, the duo were bugged by an invasion of flying ants during their match, but they managed to keep focused despite the distraction.
"We started off with a lot more but then it calmed down a lot later. I don't know if they sprayed some pesticide," Raja said.
"It was strange. but it was such a hot day. We are from India, we are used to a few more strange things coming through."
In the past, Raja and Sharan have been critical of their lack of fame in India, but now they insist they are happy to stay in the shadows until they earn the spotlight with a major victory.
"We don't play tennis for respect. We play for ourselves and to do the best for our country," Raja said.
"If anything comes along that's great. We feel we deserve what we get.
"At the same time, we aren't superstars in India. We don't really expect to be.
"We want the racquet to do the talking, rather than the hype and media. If our results are good enough I'm sure everything will come along."
Next up for the Indian challengers is a meeting with seventh seeds Raven Klaasen and Rajeev Ram for a place in the last 16.
"We know Raven and Rajeev pretty well. It will be a tough match. We'll enjoy our day off and get back to work," Raja said.
Published Date: Jul 06, 2017 01:02 am | Updated Date: Jul 06, 2017 01:06 am