Rohan Bopanna Proves Nice Guys Can Finish First With Maiden Asiad Gold
Rohan Bopanna has been the man in waiting for tremendously long. But he’s also been a firm believer of the ‘there’s a time for everything’ way of things. It’s worked in the Coorgi’s favour for sure.
Rohan Bopanna has been the man in waiting for tremendously long. But he’s also been a firm believer of the ‘there’s a time for everything’ way of things. It’s worked in the Coorgi’s favour for sure. After years of finishing in the business end of Grand Slams, last year, he finally won his first one – the French Open Mixed Doubles. It came after being on the tour for fourteen years. And on Friday, the 38 year old won his maiden Asian Games medal, the Men’s Doubles gold with Divij Sharan.
Bopanna’s entire career has been about trying to get there. To win a Grand Slam title, to win a gold medal for India. He’s had to wait really long for both. In this journey, Bopanna has often found himself in the toughest position. He’s seen Leander Paes, Mahesh Bhupathi and Sania Mirza win title after title. For the longest time, his best showing at a Grand Slam was a runners-up finish with Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi at the US Open in 2010.
But even worse was constantly being caught in the crossfire of the warring egos of Paes and Bhupathi. The selection fracas before the London Olympics in 2012 threatened to rip Indian tennis apart. Bopanna had broken his successful partnership with Pakistan’s Qureshi to prepare with Bhupathi for the Olympics. But the All India Tennis Association (AITA) wanted him to play with Paes. Bhupathi and Bopanna both refused, and were promptly thrown out of India’s Davis Cup team.
Four years later, not many lessons had been learnt. While Bhupathi had stopped playing professional tennis, and Paes’ ranking had dropped to the 30s, Bopanna, the highest ranked Indian (World No. 10 in doubles) at the time, should have been the most crucial cog in the wheel for Rio Olympics. Saketh Myneni was his choice, but yet again he was forced to play with Paes, the association’s pick, and ‘the best medal bet for India.’ Forget medal, the pair got knocked out after their very first match, that after Paes showed up late in Rio and barely had any training with his partner Bopanna.
Bopanna seemed to have accepted the doubles disaster, and moved on. But it just wasn’t India’s day when he and Sania Mirza were fighting for a bronze medal in the Mixed Doubles. Largely because a sensational Venus Williams had showed up on court that day in Rio. Yet again, for Rohan Bopanna it was the all too familiar story of so near yet so far.
The question, whether Bopanna was ever going to win a Grand Slam title, was something he’d become immune to by then. “My strength is not giving up,” he said after his French Open triumph last year. “I know people have opinions, and they have the right to. But it doesn’t matter to me. I try and stay fit and move on to my next tournament. I am committed and motivated to what I’m doing, and honestly, that’s all that matters to me.”
Now, it doesn’t even matter to him that his federation and country didn’t think he was worthy of winning an Arjuna Award on the year he finally won a Grand Slam title. Rohan Bopanna’s job is to just keep going. His time has come. It’s come late, but it’s here nevertheless.
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