CHENNAI: For a player who turned pro in the year 2003, Rohan Bopanna revealed a surprising statistic after capturing the Dubai Open with new partner Daniel Nestor. “I think this is the first time that I have gone more than a few tournaments with a left-hander,” he said.
“I have obviously played with left-handers but only here and there. There has never been a sustained partnership and I find that surprising.”
Last season wasn’t good given Bopanna’s standards. He won once and finished runner-up twice (all with Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi). The Grand Slams were a washout (he did not pass the third round). However, he’s achieved more in the first three months this season than in the whole of 2014. With Nestor as his new wingman, Bopanna has already won two titles.
What does he make of the new alliance. “I think Nestor is brilliant,” and he can’t stop eulogising the Canadian, who has enough titles to open an entry-level pawn shop. “He is a great player who has 87 ATP titles and 12 Majors. And I am looking forward to it. Both of us are aggressive players and I think we will be tough to play against,” he explained.
His objective for the season ahead is clear. “The Grand Slams are the obvious priority. Both Nestor and me, we have gotten a couple of solid victories already. We beat (Simone) Bolelli and (Fabio) Fognini in Sydney and they won the Australian Open. We have been beating the bigger teams and it’s just a question of stringing together victories in the Slams. And both of us use the same coach (Scott Davidoff) and physio (Yash Pandey),” he said. The topic shifts closer to home and the Davis Cup and it’s evident that he still cannot talk about the close loss to Serbia without feeling a tinge of regret. “It was hard that we lost the final rubber against Serbia. But I think we fought well after being 0-2 down.” And he is looking forward to playing New Zealand away from home in the second round of the Asia-Oceania group.
Many of the top stars failed to turn up for a few ATP/ WTA tournaments this January after taking part in off-season exhibitions but Bopanna clearly enjoys the format. “I think International Premier Tennis League is a great concept for tennis. We get to meet lots of players and see how they go through their routines. A similar tournament exists in the US (World Team Tennis) but not of this magnitude,” he elucidated.
The Dubai Open was Bopanna’s third victory in the desert in four tries and it is no surprise that he likes playing there. “The tournament is well conducted. It’s a great feeling to see so many Indians come out and support even though it’s not in India.”
Bopanna doesn’t have a Major yet in his CV but with his confidence and his recent career graph, you wouldn’t put your money against him achieving it.
Turned pro: 2003
Coach: Shayamal Vallabhjee
Career titles: 12
Career win-loss: 225-165
Highest ranking: 3
Current ranking: 26