CHENNAI: During the second set of the Monte-Carlo Masters doubles final on Sunday, Pablo Cuevas unveiled a rare gem of a shot. Up at net, he carved a back-spinning backhand drop volley that came back over the net before Feliciano Lopez could track it down. It drew cheers from the crowd, applause from Feliciano and Marc Lopez, as well as a high five from partner Rohan Bopanna.
“Pablo and I have been playing well together this season. Even though we suffered early losses in the four previous events, three of those came in match tie-breaks. We were putting ourselves in good positions but were unable to convert until now,” Bopanna, a 6-3, 3-6, [10-4] victor alongside Cuevas, told Express from Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, France, the actual location of the third Masters event on Tour.
Their path to glory, however, was fraught with danger. The unseeded duo outlasted fifth seeds Rajeev Ram and Raven Klaasen in the second round, top seeds Henri Kontinen and John Peers in the quarterfinals and the seventh seeds in the final. Bopanna’s fourth Masters title is also his first in almost two years. The inauspicious start at the Australian Open notwithstanding (the duo lost in the second round), maybe he has found the right ally?
“Of the five matches we contested this week, four went the distance. But Pablo and I stayed positive and produced high-quality tennis when it mattered. To win such a prestigious tournament is a dream come true and, hopefully, a harbinger of what lies ahead for us as a team.”
After a fine 2015 (seven finals, four titles) Bopanna went trophyless (two finals) in 2016 but the 37-year-old kept putting in the hard yards. Conversely, 2017 began in good fashion with the Bengalurean winning the Chennai Open crown alongside Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan and reaching the Dubai Championships final with Marcin Matkowski.
“The key is attitude. Winning or losing may not be in your control but preparation is. It’s one thing when stuff doesn’t go your way but you need to be ready to take advantage when the tide does turn. That’s where hard work and sacrifice come in. For example, I’m not a natural mover on clay. So instead of spending time with my family, I played the Marrakech Grand Prix,” the World No 18 added.
With the Barcelona Open starting on Monday, Bopanna is scheduled to play every remaining week of the clay season, except the one before the French Open. Even so, a packed calendar can be a double-edged sword. On one hand, there’s no substitute for match practice but there’s always the fear of overplaying.
“You want to peak at the right moment because winning a Grand Slam is a personal goal. The press keeps reminding me that I’ve never won one but, sometimes, forget how difficult it is to do so. In the last 14 Majors, 12 different teams have emerged victors. It shows that if you can get on a roll, you might be next in line. Hence, the full schedule.”
Bopanna reached his only Slam final at the 2010 US Open. It remains to be seen if he can duplicate or surpass that this year.