Australian Open: For history-maker Rohan Bopanna, Paris Olympics is on the radar

At 43, the Indian becomes the oldest men’s player to win a slam event with partner Matthew Ebden

Rohan Bopanna with Matthew Ebden (photo: Getty Images)
Rohan Bopanna with Matthew Ebden (photo: Getty Images)
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Gautam Bhattacharyya

When Rohan Bopanna settles down to retired life, not far away now, at his coffee plantation in the Coorg area – he would like to rewind this second week of the Australian Open in his mind over and over again.

A world No.1 doubles ranking, one of the highest civilian honours from the Indian government in Padmashri and then to cap it all – be the oldest men’s player at 43 years to win a grand slam title.

The date with history came on Saturday, 27 January, when he and local challenger Matthew Ebden, with whom he had been sharing a great chemistry, shrugged off their moments of uncertainty against the unseeded Italian pair of Simone Bolelli and Andrea Vavassori before prevailing 7-6(0), 7-5. For the record, this is the Indian’s second slam honours, the first one coming in 2017 in the mixed doubles French Open alongside Gabriela Dabrowski.

‘’This could not have been possible if I did not have a fantastic Aussie partner by my side,’’ Bopanna said as the second seeds rolled over on the turf at the Rod Laver Arena after the matchpoint. Ebden returned the compliments: ‘’Age truly really is not even a number for this guy. He's young at heart, he's a champion, he's a warrior. He's fought hard by my side this whole past year.’’

The current form has spurred Bopanna on to give a shot at the men’s doubles event in the Paris Olympics, though he will not be a part of the mixed doubles. ‘’I am definitely looking forward to competing at the Paris 2024 Olympics,” he said after making the final.

Compared to the exhausting three-setter semi-final win against Thomas Machac and Zhang Zhizhen, it may have been relatively easier but then the Bangalorean knows what it feels to be so-near-yet-so-far. He made it to the US Open final twice in a gap of 10 years (in 2013 and 2023) while last year in Melbourne, he and Sania Mirza lost the mixed doubles final.

For someone who has no cartilages left in his knees (it’s completely worn out, he says) and cannot withstand the rigours of the customary weight training, the recent journey has been nothing short of a wonder. Soon after prevailing in the semi-finals, Bopanna revealed that it was ‘Iyengar yoga,’ which he tried at a local studio near his home – which made his body flexible and strengthened it.

“[It] always was there in India, but I never really tried it. I just thought it was something I wouldn’t enjoy so much,” said Bopanna. However, it was during the pandemic that he resorted to it – and was thankful that he did it.

“That actually tremendously made a huge, huge difference … yoga in a way not only strengthens my legs, my body, but also I think made me calmer on the tennis court,” explained Bopanna, adding that his focus has improved.

Ebden, his partner in crime, has a Wimbledon doubles title to show for in 2022 with Max Purcell while Bopanna is a winner of 24 ATP doubles titles and a gold medallist at the Asian Games.

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