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What makes Rohan Bopanna? Stamina, resilience and a remarkable spirit

What makes Rohan Bopanna? Stamina, resilience and a remarkable spirit

Sohinee Basu

Published: 3 Sep 2018 5:49 PM GMT
It's that time of the year again when the Flushing Meadows deck up to welcome the US Open with open arms. At 38 years of age with the greys beginning to surface in his otherwise jet black hair, Rohan Bopanna is the figure of resilience and remarkable spirit. As he swings his racket with panache and reflexively hits a masterstroke every minute, you realise that Bopanna is still a little dazed and stuck in the golden hangover of his performance at the recently concluded Asian Games. There he left no room for error en route to winning a gold medal in the Men's Doubles event partnering with Divij Sharan. The finesse he displayed in Jakarta has lingered for the better, and the strains of it probe out and show themselves every time he steps on court in the ongoing US Open. The fifteenth seeded duo of Bopanna-Vasselin has been showing some brilliant tennis in the first few rounds of the year-ending Grand Slam before bowing out in the quarterfinals, and one cannot help but gape in wonder at Bopanna's stamina at this age. In the Round of 64, the Indo-French duo saw of the pair of Marcos Baghdatis and Mischa Zverev in 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 and handed Ebden-Withrow a crushing defeat in 6-4, 6-4 in the subsequent Round of 32 clashes.
All through it, it was the Coorg-born Bopanna's dominant performance that struck the eyes.
In a sport like tennis where much depends on how fast you can reach the ball to continue a rally and how well can you keep up when your opponent stays on the other side firing down aces and winners, escalating age isn't the perfect ally. Ever since Rohan Bopanna turned to Professional tennis in 2003, he has tasted the waters of several realms-be it Singles, Doubles or even Mixed Doubles. The road hasn't been easy and was far from being a cakewalk and Bopanna has had to struggle to make his presence felt in the circuit as he kept climbing up the ATP rankings in the Doubles and Mixed Doubles category, discovering in it his true forté. Nothing came easy for him, and at 38, Bopanna does realise that and has built himself to cater to the occasion.

Players who get plagued by the onslaught of growing age often miss out essential tournaments or put up a sorry performance even if they do appear.

When Bopanna showed himself out in the second round of Wimbledon Championships 2018 owing to a pinched nerve, he understood that he doesn't have endless years still waiting for him to perform his best. Time is ticking with every day and chances slipping out like the sand slipping from in-between the fingers of a clenched fist. So when Bopanna found in him that vintage form during the Asian Games that saw him pulling off some incredible shots as he raced to win India it's 5th gold medal in Men's Doubles at the Games, he realised he must hold on to it and not let go.
It's incredible to see him having that fascinating stamina considering how firmly placed the two tournaments were, overlapping by a fraction. Not willing to let his date with US Open go to waste, Bopanna revved up just in time to make sure that he can bond correctly with long-time French partner Roger-Vasselin. Barely showing any signs of fatigue, Bopanna is setting an example all over again. Unwilling to miss out on the Asian Games action or the US Open, Bopanna found the perfect balance for both tournaments. On the other hand, 26-year old Yuki Bhambri who was touted as the next big thing has considerably lost steam having failed to qualify beyond the 1st round in all the four Grand Slams ever.
The Florida-based former Australian Open Boy's Singles Champion also gave the excuse of preparing for the US Open to opt out of the quadrennial continental extravaganza that began from 18th August and concluded on the 2nd of September. Planning to train himself to better his performance and make it to the second round of a Grand Slam for the first time, Bhambri disappointed himself as he went down in straight sets to Frenchman P.H. Herbert in 3-6, 6-7, 5-7. Bopanna, at 38 is a stark contrast to the mid-twenties Bhambri who really should be stepping in now to be the torchbearer of the country's future in the sport. One can say that Bopanna is to Indian tennis what Roger Federer, at 37, is to World tennis. 
Both players show spellbinding grit and passion for the sport and display extreme wisdom in choosing their matches carefully.
Bopanna, who is quite the philanthropist donates plenty to charities with a cause and runs his own one-of-a-kind Tennis Academy in the heart of Bengaluru. His passion to preach the sport and pass on his knowledge is very evident. The kind of form that Bopanna is currently displaying cannot be doubted or frowned upon, coming as he is from the high of a gold medal win. Ample experience has been his guide to find the right balance so that he can preserve his form for the Games.
The younger generation has a lot of tricks to pick up from the former French Open Champion.
Dating back some ten years, it was the Indo-Pak Express of Bopanna and Aisam-ul-Haq-Qureshi that created history when they went into the finals of the US Open with all guns blazing. Dating back some ten years, it was the Indo-Pak Express of Bopanna and Aisam-ul-Haq-Qureshi that created history when they went into the finals of the US Open with all guns blazing. On the other side of the net, they were faced with the best of the game, the Bryan brothers who edged away to win the title and Bopanna had to settle at being a Runner-up. Ever since then, Bopanna has been waiting to enter Arthur Ashe Stadium again and rewrite that history, but chances never cropped up. He might still have to wait a little more but, as he has shown the world, he is more than ready for it.
Also read: Ankita Raina: Meet the new poster-girl of Indian tennis
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