Rohan Bopanna is preparing for one of the most significant matches of his season Wednesday at the Nitto ATP Finals. While he will be fully focused on his latest doubles clash alongside Matthew Ebden at Turin’s Pala Alpitour, he may also look for inspiration from some fellow Indian sportsmen more than 6,500 kilometres away.
At the same time as Bopanna and Ebden’s Red Group meeting with Rinky Hijikata and Jason Kubler, the Indian men’s national cricket team will be in action in Mumbai, where it takes on New Zealand in a World Cup semi-final. In a country where cricket is akin to a religion, it is a huge occasion, and one that Bopanna is all too aware of despite being so far away.
“I am following it, of course” Bopanna told ATPTour.com, when asked about the World Cup, where host nation India has won all nine of its matches so far. “I love cricket. Unfortunately, I have not been able to watch it, because Italy right now is not really showing the cricket, unless I try and find a stream online or something!
“I think the way India is playing this year, it’s really looking extremely good. I think, overall, [the whole team] is performing. It’s not just that one or two players are doing well. The bowlers, the batsmen, everybody is coming together as a team, and I think we’ve got some fantastic home support.”
Matthew Ebden and Rohan Bopanna in action during their opening loss on Monday in Turin. Photo Credit: Corinne Dubreuil/ATP Tour
India’s cricket players are widely recognised figures at home. Star batsman Virat Kohli has one of the most-followed Instagram accounts in the world, with 263 million followers, and he is one of a handful of cricket stars with whom Bopanna shares a positive relationship.
“I’ve met [Kohli] a couple of times, and most of the cricket guys, apart from those who have just come in the team,” said Bopanna. “Even the guys who have retired, starting from [Rahul] Dravid and Sachin [Tendulkar], [Mahendra Singh] Dhoni, all these guys. Once they had a football match with some cricketers and other sportsmen mixed against some Bollywood celebrities, so it was fun. We got to meet everybody.
“Sachin also came to watch my match at Wimbledon, this year, so it’s nice. We’re just a handful of sportsmen across the country who represent India at a global level, so I think everybody respects each other.”
As one of the leading lights of Indian tennis for more than two decades, Bopanna can certainly relate to the feeling of representing a…