Rohan Bopanna, the doubles champion of old
Before Rohan Bopanna hit the court for his Indian Wells final, he sent across an apology text to his former partner Daniel Nestor for breaking his record of being the oldest finalist in an ATP Masters tournament.
Make that oldest champion.
Fifteen days after celebrating his 43rd birthday, Bopanna wrapped his hands around the Indian Wells doubles title partnering Matthew Ebden. The Indian-Australian pair defeated top seeds Wesley Koolhof and Neal Skupski—the Dutch-British combine is also the world No 1 doubles pair—6-3, 2-6, 10-8 in a final that went into the match tie-break.
In winning his fifth Masters title (the previous one came six years ago) and the first at the prestigious Indian Wells tournament in Miami, Bopanna is now the oldest ATP Masters 1000 champion, bettering the mark of Nestor, who was 12 days shy of turning 43 when he won the 2015 Cincinnati doubles crown. Bopanna’s 24th career ATP title will also push him four spots up in the updated doubles rankings to 11th, his best since 2016.
It speaks as much about the Indian’s physical shape and longevity—Bopanna has been on the professional tour for two decades now—as it does about his level of tennis still going strong; especially those booming serves that earned him some crucial free points in the match tie-break.
“It’s always special when you get any record as such, but the biggest feeling for me is that I was able to pursue my tennis, keep it going, and still believe that I could win big tournaments,” Bopanna said after the title win.
Joining forces with Bopanna in that quest for this season was Ebden, the reigning Wimbledon doubles champion with Max Purcell. The new pairing got off to a rocky start, losing first-round matches at the ATP Adelaide and the Australian Open.
Ebden admitted those early defeats were tough, but something clicked in one of their
practice sessions in Rotterdam last month where the two “just started playing unbelievable, both of us together at the same time”. The pair reached the final of that ATP 500 event where it lost from a match point, and the following week won the ATP 250 Qatar Open.
“Sometimes, it takes some time finding the right partnership. The last three-four weeks have been fantastic,” Bopanna said.
After winning three titles last season, Bopanna already has two from the first three months of this year to go with the Australian Open mixed doubles final run with the now-retired Sania Mirza. In the company of Ebden, who wants them to be “one of the top teams, try and win Grand Slams and ATP Masters”, as he told this paper in an interview in November last year, Bopanna, at 43, has his sights set on some more big trophies.
“I don’t think if I was ready to do that, then this would have been the right partnership,” he said. “I know I had to put in my side of the work, put in a lot of effort, then make sure that I’m recovered and playing good tennis to be able to achieve and do this. I think that is where my strengths are—constantly finding ways to figure on how I can improve.”
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