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When Life Gives You 43, Be Rohan Bopanna – A Historic Win That’ll Set an Example

#RohanBopanna's historic #AusOoen win will not only set an example, but will also offer doubles a new lease of life.

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India's Rohan Bopanna and Australia's Matthew Ebden created history as the duo clinched their maiden Australian Open men's doubles title, defeating Italy's Simone Bolelli and Andrea Vavassori in straight sets 7-6, 7-5 to claim what is a remarkable win.

In the process, the 43-year-old Bopanna became the oldest-ever man to win a maiden Grand Slam title. With a Grand Slam title at the age of forty-three, Rohan Bopanna surpassed the record of Australian tennis champion Ken Rosewall, who won his first Grand Slam at 37.

This is Rohan Bopanna's second Gand Slam title after the 2017 French Open win, with his Canadian partner Gabriela Dabrowski in mixed doubles. This was also the second successive Grand Slam final appearance for Bopanna and Ebden, having made the final of the US Open last year.

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After his win, Rohan described his age factor as ‘Level 43’ and not ‘Age 43’. He gushed over the way his partner Matthew played in the doubles and it was a fitting finale for the Aussie to lift the doubles crown at home in Melbourne.

Rohan was very particular about how his fitness levels had improved drastically under his physio’s supervision, or else, he may have retired some time ago after a winless streak.

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Bopanna-Ebden’s Calmness Trumps Bolelli-Vavassori’s Ferocity

The game was a perfect nail-biting finale where both pairs displayed some world-class skills to dominate each other. Simone Bolelli and Andrea Vavassori were attacking from the first serve, but Rohan Bopanna and Matthew Ebden kept their cool and fought back against the early lead to the Italian duo.

The first set came close and finally went for the tiebreaker where Rohan Bopanna and Matthew Ebden dominated completely and won the first set 7-6. Bolelli and Vavassori were now fighting for survival.

Bopanna and Ebden again looked calmer and focused and slowly took control of the game. The numbers were changing with every game, but in the end, the Indian-Australian duo managed to clinch the second set 7-5 ensuring the Grand Slam win.

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The Old-World Simplicity of Rohan Bopanna

Now that he has won the Australian Open men's doubles, there would be comparisons with the world’s best, but that would be irrelevant and most probably taking away from Rohan Bopanna’s success which may have come in the twilight of his career. Yet, looking at his age – 43 – this win is highly commendable, enshrining him as one of the best doubles players in the sport.

The one aspect of the ‘late rise’ of Bopanna is that he brings an old-world charm to a sport that is on the cusp of a generational change; be it singles or doubles. Watching Bopanna is like watching and thinking, "Hey, maybe, I could have done that." It is the simplicity he brings to the craft of doubles.

Interestingly, Rohan had reached the men’s doubles final of the 2010 US Open with Pakistan’s Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi and the 2023 US Open with Ebden, but lost on both occasions.

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‘Why Even Contemplate Retiring?’ Asks Zeeshan Ali

Doubles requires a special skill – the eye-hand coordination combined with outstanding reflexes, not to emphasize the communication required between two players to be able to understand and predict exact positions where the ball might turn up.

Bopanna, like fine wine, has matured. How long can he go on? Is reaching the Paris Olympics podium a realistic target? Former Indian national champion and present Davis Cup coach Zeeshan Ali believes ‘why even contemplate retirement’ when the going is good.

I don't understand why he should want to retire. I mean, you know, this is the best season that he's been having. It's the best, you know, consistent performance that he's been giving. And this is the time to keep it going. And I think if he's fit, if he's mentally, you know, hungry for more, I think that a player should continue. And I don't see Rohan retiring at least for another year or two.
Zeeshan Ali
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‘Rohan Bopanna Is Setting a Great Example for the Youngsters,’ Feels Rohit Rajpal

Longevity in doubles also comes from whom you partner with, and successful examples are the Bryan Brothers, McEnroe-Peter Fleming, and Mahesh Bhupathi-Leander Paes.

Former Indian singles player and now Davis Cup non-playing captain, Rohit Rajpal believes Bopanna should stay the course.

Well, you know, that (retirement) is a very personal decision. I was trying to convince him over the last two years to continue playing Davis Cup for India and that itself was a thing because he did see some moments where he was going down and his knees were not in good condition and that's where, you know, he brought in physios, yoga and extra things to work on himself. And you know, this is a great example for all the youngsters, especially in India to see that if you stay the course, excellence is achieved after several years. So, this is a fitting example that, you know, don't give up, stay the course, and come through and success comes, you know, it's not easy, so success comes slowly.
Rohit Rajpal
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Rohan Bopanna Might Have Offered Doubles Tennis a New Lease of Life

It is, at times, difficult to stay the distance when doubles itself lends for limited viewing except at the Majors or in a Davis Cup tie. It’s only at the Davis Cup that a top 10-20 star plays a doubles tie because the cause is of a nation. In that respect, to be able to watch Bopanna play a Major final and win it is exceptional. Doubles is in a dark space, but players have to themselves light up that space, especially in India.

Not so long back, Bhupathi-Paes' “The Indian Express” – as they were called – ensured the media created space for them and featured in the Major final or semi-finals. In that sense, Bopanna may have given doubles a new lease of life, at least, in India.

With singles almost reduced to an occasional first-second round appearance in the Majors, it is doubles that will not only keep the sport alive but also ensure that a small group of Indian tennis fans have something to look forward to.

Looking back, which includes 2023, it’s been a good run for doubles. At the Asian Games, Bopanna and Rutuja Bhosale won the gold medal in mixed doubles while Saketh Myneni and Ramkumar Ramanathan won silver men’s doubles, also at the Asian Games.

Keep that yoga going Rohan, those knees in shape, ‘Level 44’ is on the horizon.

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