Naib Subedar Sriram Balaji on Wednesday became the first player in the history of Indian Army to reach Wimbledon main draw. Congratulating the player, the Army said: "Naib Subedar Sriram Balaji has qualified for the Wimbledon Main Draw. First in the history of Services, player to qualify & reach this level. #IndianArmy #Proud."
The Indian pair of Vishnu Vardhan and Balaji qualified for the main draw of the men's doubles category at the Wimbledon tennis championship after a 6-3 6-4 win over top seeds Denys Molchanov and Igor Zelenay in the second round of the Wimbledon qualifiers.
They won alongside Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan, who partnered Austin Krajicek in the Wimbledon qualifiers. Nedunchezhiyan carved out a 7-6, 6-3 victory over the English pair of Edward Corrie and Lloyd Glasspool.
Vardhan and Balaji will be making their debut appearance in the Wimbledon main draw while Nedunchezhiyan will be making his second appearance.
In the last 14 months, Vardhan and Balaji have made seven finals on the ATP Challenger circuit and won five of them but struggled to make a mark in a few ATP 250 events they played. They needed to graduate to the next level and have now taken a long stride forward with their performance this week.
"It's been incredible since last year when both me and Bala decided that we will focus more on the doubles and immediately got some Challenger wins. We were eying to play the Wimbledon qualifying and did everything under our control to prepare," Vardhan said.
The 30-year-old underlined that change in Balaji's attitude was a huge factor in them clinching the Wimbledon berth. "There were a few close matches that we lost in the last three months but in the last one month, I have seen so much change in my partner. He is so calm, relaxed and composed. And that is what you need when you are playing at a stage like this, that made a big difference," explained Vardhan.
Recalling the journey, Balaji said how he overcame the desperation that he faced at times. "There was a time few weeks back, I put myself under too much pressure about making it to Wimbledon. I stopped focusing on my routine and started going behind points. That put me down. I couldn't execute or play my game," he confessed.
"I had to sit and talk with my coaches (Alex and Basti). I decided it's not going to work like this. Then mentally I started to change myself to be free and enjoy the game. Even if you have the game, you have to execute it to go to the next level. I always travel with Vishnu, Prajnesh (Gunneswaran) and Vijay (Prashanth). These guys also mentally helped me to get better. And I feel so much better on court now," said Balaji.