Misc Tennis

Ro-BoTop: Bopanna, level 43 and world #1, adds a men’s doubles Grand Slam title to his name

Ro-BoTop: Bopanna, level 43 and world #1, adds a men's doubles Grand Slam title to his name

There is something poetic about the oldest man to win a Grand Slam title in the Open era also winning his first-ever men’s doubles title.

It’s a unique marker of Rohan Bopanna’s unique achievement when he and Matt Ebden won the Australian Open, their first Major together. Bopanna called it the best moment of his career, and it indeed is.

This first men’s doubles Major comes a month short of his turning 44, after 20-odd years on the pro circuit, and days after becoming world No. 1, also for the first time. That both these goals have come so late in his career is a testament to his perseverance. And Rohan Bopanna is nothing if not persevering.

This current version of Bopanna is an unlikely Grand Slam champion, and not just because of his age.

The grey beard and the slight belly bulge may be the most visual, but there are other factors that indicate Bopanna does not have the identikit of a conventional tennis player.

Here is a man who can’t do endurance training in the gym because he has absolutely no cartilage in his knees. A player who had reached only two men’s doubles Grand Slam final before this – and they were 10 years apart. Who had just one Major to his name, in mixed doubles, from five finals. Whose career best of world No 3 was first achieved way back in 2013. Who almost retired in 2019 after needing three painkillers a day to play.

But through the physical limitations and finals losses and, today, the pressure to win after reaching world No 1, Bopanna had what the best of athletes need above all the skills and fitness – perseverance, backed by discipline, commitment to fitness and emotional awareness. This combination is what makes Bopanna so good at his age, it’s what finally gave him the biggest achievement at 43.

The best example of this is how he stuck around the most difficult phase of his career in 2019 and 2021. With his knees all but gone, he was ready to call it quits. The pandemic-enforced break gave him a chance to focus on Iyengar yoga and once he was pain-free, he had a string of losses that made him reconsider playing.

“I still remember back in in Portugal… I had not won a match for the first four months, that’s when I told my wife and coach, ‘I don’t think I can go any further….

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