Eric Butorac and Rajeev Ram just won an ATP doubles tournament in Chennai, India to open the 2009 season. Following is Eric's description of his week in India.
After spending a couple weeks at home training in Minnesota, it was time for me to hit the road again to start the 2009 season. This year, I decided to start my Australian Open warm-up season in Chennai, India. I had always wanted to go to India, because everyone who has been there told me that it's a very a life-changing experience.
I flew from Chicago to Delhi and had to spend my first night there and then catch a morning flight to Chennai. I had made a booking at nearby hotel and my only real task was catching a cab there. I walked outside about 11pm on a Friday night and it was absolute chaos out there. That night it seemed that every person in the world was a taxi and they all wanted my business! I finally found a cab that seemed to be somewhat legitimate and we were off to the hotel.
Now, I have been to a few countries in my day and seen my share of traffic, but nothing like this! There were no lanes, no rules and more types of vehicles than I had seen in my life. I mean who gets the right of way between a bus, a rickshaw (like a 3 wheeled cab), a man pulling a cart on his back or us. It was one of the more thrilling cab rides I had ever been on. Including going the wrong way on a 5 lane road because my driver said otherwise he would have to loop around to get to the hotel, that may have been the highlight.
I'm sure you have all heard about the terrorist attacks in Mumbai (Bombay) a few weeks back, so you can imagine the heightened security at the hotels. My only surprise was how it was used. They searched our car, sent the dog into the back and looked under the car with a moving mirror. Next, I went through the metal detector to get in the hotel and I set off the alarm. I quickly backed out and started emptying my pockets, but the hotel staff waived me through saying that this detector is not for me! What??? I thought this was crazy, but it was the same scene in Chennai too. Walk through the detector, alarms go off, then you just go in the hotel. I mean what is the point of this thing???
So, when I got to Chennai, it was time to start preparing for the tournament. I was playing with Rajeev Ram from Indianapolis, but his parents were born in Bangalore, India, so we had some hometown support there. Our first match we drew Indian wild cards Harsh Mankad and Yuki Bahmbri. It was quite a crazy draw because I had spent the last couple weeks in Minnesota training with Harsh.
We got through that match and the next one quite comfortably dropping only 8 games between the two matches. Rajeev, who also qualified in singles was really playing sharp, I was more or less just holding my own in the first couple.
The big key with playing in India is to not get sick. Everyone has their theories on how to beat it. Some players were literally only eating bread and rice, the Russian guys were convinced that all you needed was 2 shots of vodka after each meal and that will kill any bacteria, others had even crazier ideas. I initially was going to try live off mostly power bars and lay off the chicken curry. Then, I arrived, realized that Indian food is my favorite thing in the world and ended up eating different types of spicy curry for breakfast lunch and dinner. Its been about 10 days and I still haven't started turning yellow from malaria, so I think I'm in the clear.
In the semis, we were set to play the German team of Shuettler/Phau and they wound up pulling out due to Shuettler hurting his wrist. Its not the ideal way to make it into the finals, but we'll take it.
The finals on Sunday were quite exciting. In the singles, local wild card Somdev Devvarmen (and good friend of mine) was playing Marin Cilic. Somdev just graduated from Virginia last year and has only been on the tour 6 months, so to make the finals of a tour event was really exciting for him, and the whole country of India. He was on the front page of the Times every day and the stadium was absolutely packed for the final, which he unfortunately lost. But, he is a great player and even better kid and it was so great to see such a young kid handle all the pressure with a constant smile on his face. I was very happy for him.
We got the benefit though of playing right afterwards and there still probably 5,000 people still around to watch the doubles. Ever since the beginning of the Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupati era, the Indians have been crazy about doubles. Rajeev and I picked up right where we left off in the quarterfinals and took the final 6-3, 6-4.
It was great to take my 5th title of my career, but it made it even more special to share it with Rajeev. He had so many friends and family there (including his parents who flew over from Indianapolis to watch) and it was the first title of his career. Now, my goal is convincing him to play with me more.
Since all the flights from India to Australia leave at night we had to head straight to the airport after the ceremony ended. It was actually quite cool walking through the airport, because the match had been shown all across the airport just 2 hours earlier. We also traveled to Australia with Bhupati, who is a national hero there. I've never seen a doubles player get treated like a rock star before, but they loved him in India.
This week I am in Brisbane training with former RTC pro Gareth Keating and I will be off to Melbourne on Friday to prepare for the Aussie Open.
More blogs to come this year....