‘Happy to move on from Davis Cup,’ says Rohan Bopanna

City’s tennis ace Rohan Bopanna and his wife Supriya Annaiah talk about his successful stint at Wimbledon ’23, maintaining a high level in sport and his final appearance at the Davis Cup
Supriya Annaiah and Rohan Bopanna
Supriya Annaiah and Rohan Bopanna

BENGALURU:  While it is undoubtedly true that Indian tennis ace Rohan Bopanna is in the twilight years of his sporting career, a quick look at his recent achievements denotes he is still far from being finished. The 43-year-old, in the recently-concluded Wimbledon, reached as far as the semi-finals in the doubles category with his partner Australia’s Matthew Ebden.

Getting to the final four of a major at his age is pretty unprecedented. But the laurels don’t end there. Bopanna also rose to no 7 in the ATP rankings for doubles, the first time he reached the number since 2013. Bopanna says the experience at Wimbledon was ‘fantastic’.

“Especially since last year, I did miss Wimbledon. They did not have any ranking points last year, so I decided to skip the event. It’s one of the events which I think every tennis player wants to play. It’s a mecca of our sport. And Matt (Ebden) and I had a pretty successful season so far. We had some tough matches in the beginning, and I think fighting through that was a tremendous achievement for us,” shares the Bengalurean.

Regarding making it into the top 10 rankings, Bopanna elaborates, “It’s really good to be back in the top 10. Especially with the way I’ve been playing. I think the Grand Slams make that difference. You can achieve big points in major events like Grand Slams and Masters. This year, that’s what we have done. And I think it has really shown the difference,” he says.

The pressure of maintaining a high level in sport gets harder as you age, and support from loved ones is crucial. Supriya Annaiah, Bopanna’s wife and a practising psychologist, explains, “I don’t work with him as a psychologist. Ethically, I can’t and personally don’t cross that boundary. Each athlete’s needs and requirements from their spouse varies.

So when I started travelling with him on the tennis tour 12 years ago, it meant understanding his world from scratch, but it was also very freeing – to be able to customise our partnership to pay attention to his needs and performance, while I get to honour my needs and individuality too.” She adds, “Tennis is a sport that demands a lot out of an athlete on and off the court to be at a particular level – I’ve witnessed Rohan go through the grind of it.

So when I cheer for him on and off the court, it is equally (sometimes more) for the man he is behind what he does professionally.” Annaiah believes that the need for an athlete to maintain their mental health is pertinent now, but there isn’t much awareness around it in India when it comes to sport psychology. “There are courses that are being offered, and professionals are being churned out in India.

However, in sport, there isn’t enough awareness and practice in a place where physical health is given attention at par with mental health despite knowing that both go hand in hand. Athletes need to know that they don’t need to reach a tipping point to seek help,” says Annaiah. This year, unfortunately, is the final time Bopanna will play in the Davis Cup in September, a tournament he has been playing since 2002.

“One of the main reasons I decided to stop playing Davis Cup is because I know, this is one place where if I stop, another Indian will be able to take my place. It’s been a long career representing India in the Davis Cup, over 20 years. So, I’m very happy to move on and am very happy that I can bow out of the cup in India,” concludes Bopanna, adding that the one thing that helped him was to have short-term goals.

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