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At 30, Rohan Bopanna is just starting

Last updated on: January 4, 2011 15:28 IST

At 30, Rohan Bopanna is just starting

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That Rohan Bopanna is 30 is anything but a deterrent. The player from Coorg is finally enjoying his tennis and getting the results that are expected from him, says Bikash Mohapatra.

At an age when most players contemplate retirement, he is looking forward to what could potentially be the best year of his career.

Having made it to six finals on the ATP tour in 2010 -- including a first in majors at the US Open -- he's hungry for more. And the fact that he could manage to win only one of those six finals provides the necessary motivation.

Rohan Bopanna is just starting.

That he is 30 is anything but a deterrent. The player from Coorg is finally enjoying his tennis and getting the results that are expected from him.

2010 was a breakthrough year for him in more ways than one. For once, he finally got his priorities right.

Doubles was always his calling, and Bopanna, having finally realised that, was last year more focused than ever in the format. The result was a string of impressive performances that helped improve his ranking considerably. And ensured he gets to play all the four majors this year.


Image: Rohan Bopanna

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'The win at Johannesburg changed things'

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Like the Indian Express (Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi) that made its mark on the circuit some 15 seasons back, last year witnessed the emergence of the Indo-Pak Express on the ATP Tour.

Bopanna's decision to partner Pakistan's Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi ensured rich dividends for both the players while ushering the advent of a new pairing that could challenge for the big trophies.

A combination that the opposition would underestimate at their own peril.

The US Open final, even though it ended in defeat, was an icing on the cake. It was in many ways a breakthrough effort.

And Bopanna eventually realised what it takes to succeed at the biggest stage.

"2010 was the first year where we actually focussed on the basic drill of doubles, the specifics," he reasoned.

"And winning the title at Johannesburg really changed things a lot for us.

"It gave us a lot of confidence and we believed we can actualy win at the highest level," he added.


Image: Rohan Bopanna and Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi

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'We can actually plan our schedule in 2011'

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The success that he achieved alongside his partner last year also meant Bopanna starts the New Year with a well-laid out plan.

"2011 will be the first time when both Aisam and I will get into all the four majors," explained Bopanna, adding, "We can actually plan our schedule."

The pair, currently ranked 14, also reached the last eight at Wimbledon last year -- besides the final in New York -- and Bopanna is aware of the burden of expectations.

The 30-year-old also realises it is going to be tough to stay at the top, with the level of competition increasing considerably.

"Obviously, the teams in the top 10 are more experienced, have won more major titles and are consistent," admitted Bopanna.

" But I see no reason as to why we can't achieve the same," he added.

The fact that there are a few big wins under his belt justified the confidence that Bopanna exuded.

"We played well throughout last year and pretty much beat every team in the top 10," he continued, adding, "We just have to try and do that on a consistent basis.

"My singles ranking won't even help me make it to the qualifying rounds."


Image: Rohan Bopanna and Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi

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A late bloomer

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Bopanna is a late bloomer. The fact that he straddled between singles and doubles meant his attention remained divided for a large part of his career.

Despite early success in his partnership with Aisam -- the duo won four challengers when they first combined in 2007 -- Bopanna for most part was not focused on doubles.

In fact, Paes adviced him to get his priorities in place, to focus on doubles rather than singles. And Bopanna finally realised the same, thereby putting singles on the backburner.

"Doubles will obviously be the priority now," he said, adding, "In any case in singles, thanks to my ranking, I won't even make it to the qualifying in most events.

"And after having worked on my ranking for so long, I am not going back to play in Futures and Challengers just to prove a point. But wherever I can get into the qualifying draw of the tour events, I will play in singles," he added.


Image: Rohan Bopanna

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'No reason why we can't win a major'

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Now that his priorities are in place, Bopanna's focus is on achieving the desired results. 

The 30-year-old is looking to consolidate his partnership with Aisam while simultaneously spreading the message of peace through the "Stop War, Start Tennis" campaign that he started with his partner.

"It always helps playing together, no doubt about that," said Bopanna. And what better way to strengthen a partnership than winning.

His success last year has increased Bopanna's aspiration. He is now willing stretch him more to achieve what he missed out on earlier.

"I and Aisam always keep saying to each other that we have to play our game, stay positive and focused," explained Bopanna, before adding, "There's no reason as to why we can't win a major."

The confidence exuded in the statement above reiterates what we said right at the beginning: At 30, Bopanna is just starting!


Image: Rohan Bopanna and Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi

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