Lavishing superlatives is a craze in modern-day sport. But for Rohan Bopanna, it doesn’t feel exaggerated, for winning your maiden men’s doubles Grand Slam title when you are about to turn 44 can be surreal.
“It’s a dream come true,” Bopanna said during a virtual media interaction on Sunday. “When I was on the court talking [after the win], there were so many thoughts, it was like my mind was about to explode. All those years of struggle, sacrifice… it felt like the whole weight was off my shoulders. It’s an incredible and magical moment.”
Bopanna is not new to Slam success, having clinched the 2017 French Open mixed doubles title with Gabriela Dabrowski. But mixed doubles is a format that doesn’t exist outside the Majors and quadrennial events like Olympics and Asian Games. There are also no separate rankings. No wonder Bopanna ranked his latest success in men’s doubles higher.
Simply the best
“This feels extra special. When I was playing with Aisam [ul-Haq Qureshi, in 2010] and we decided to focus on doubles and make it a career, men’s doubles was the target. Along came the success in 2017, but to win in men’s doubles was always the dream. So without a doubt, this is the best moment in my tennis journey.”
The past fortnight marked several firsts for Bopanna. He made it past the third round in doubles only for the first time in 17 visits to Australia. Then came the assurance of the World No.1 ranking, the Padma Shri award from the Indian government and ultimately the Australian Open crown. But to his credit, he didn’t let the emotions that accompany such a series of highs overwhelm him.
Doing it right
“What really helped was that I enjoyed every single day, [but at the same time], no matter what, I ensured I got proper sleep, did proper recovery and was aware what the [final] goal was.
“After I got past the third round, everything started getting better. I knew that with Matt [Ebden] and me playing so well in Adelaide [finalists], if we continued the form, we genuinely had a chance to win the title. That came true and I don’t think it would have happened if not for a partner like Matt, who understood how it is being on the big stage and brought the best tennis when really needed.
“Our biggest strength was being calm together. Even in the first match, when we were 0-5 down, there was no doubt at any moment that the match was slipping away. After playing with so many partners over so many years, this is my most consistent partnership in terms of results at Slams,” added Bopanna, who now has three straight semifinal or better finishes with Ebden in the last three Majors.