Paris, June 3 (IANS) Rohan Bopanna has been India’s top ranked doubles players over the last few years and had a very successful 2015 where he won four titles and reached the final of the year ending ATP Tour Finals tournament at London. He has also done well at the majors, reaching the quarter-finals of two Grand Slams, including the French Open this week and semi-finals of Wimbledon where they beat the legendary pair of Mike and Bob Bryan.
How would he explain his consistency over the past few years and the impact of Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi? “It’s really special that I am playing a high level of tennis. I am at the peak of my career. I have seen how much Leander and Mahesh have done for India and they still keep fighting out there. It’s not easy.”
“I am very happy that I am No.1 in the country and keeping the Indian flag flying every single tournament and working hard to winning the title every time you step on court. It’s been a tough journey but I am really happy the way I have been playing.”
So what are the travails of a professional tennis player? Bopanna felt it was the sacrifices they make to be away from home, family and friends and travel about 30-35 weeks every year. “But this is the choice I have made and know this is how it’s going to be. But thankfully my family and friends understand this and it makes it easier.”
Bopanna also shared some of his career goals. “Winning a Grand Slam and reaching No.1 in the rankings would be the ultimate goal. I had reached a high of No.3 in 2013 after reaching the semi-finals at Wimbledon and would like to better that.”
He added that he is highly motivated by competition and doesn’t think about the awards. “I don’t think you have to worry about the awards. If you keep playing well, the country will recognise how you are doing and grant you that award.”
Bopanna is a man on a mission. Looking to give back to tennis what the sport has given him, he has launched the Rohan Bopanna Tennis Academy at Bengaluru. “The main reason is because of the passion I have for the sport. The Indian players have a lot of skills but it is the fitness aspect that we are lacking. So I will be focussing on that.”
Bopanna also shared his favourite memories on court. “My most special moment was representing India for the first time in Davis Cup in 2002. Also my singles win in final rubber of 2010 Davis Cup against Brazil in Chennai to take India to the World Group as we made a comeback from 0-2 down to win 3-2. In Grand Slams, it was reaching the final of the US Open with Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi. It’s rare that India and Pakistan come together in sports.”
So does Paris hold special memories? “The city is so beautiful. It is such a romantic city. It was the first place my wife accompanied me. There’s so much to do, there’s great culture, great food and the best clay courts in the world,” answered Bopanna.
The Indian star from Bengaluru loves watching other sports and follows Manchester United and the ‘Bangalore teams’ — be it Royal Challengers Bangalore in the Indian Premier League (IPL), Bangaluru FC in the I-League and Bengaluru Bulls in the Premier Kabaddi League. He was a big fan of Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and loves to watch Virat Kohli now and also the Indian badminton stars.
Bopanna is also amazed at the skills of star South African batsman AB de Villiers, “Every time I speak to South African players, they say he’s great in Tennis, great in Golf, great in Cricket. He’s just an all-round sportsman.”
In fact, Rohan’s love for tennis and sports is so great that his wife jokes that his tennis bag is his first love!
(S. Rajesh is a Chennai based journalist. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)