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Rohan Bopanna, still topper at 43 has defied age as a Lawn Tennis Player


Awarded Padmashree this Republic Day, he is a symbol of grit and determination

By Tirthankar Mitra

, especially the outdoor ones like lawn tennis, are both a mind and a body game. While some men and women sportspersons call it a day at the peak of their careers, there are exceptions who not only soldier on but continue to win more laurels. Rohan Bopanna, 43 who was awarded with Padmashree this Republic Day is one such rare person.

Rohan Bopanna, a lawn tennis ace who has made proud time and again is one of the members of this distinguished tribe who continue to be a winner in a game which the elderly stay away from. Racquet in hand, he nimbly runs in the tennis court playing in deft coordination with his partner racing towards a triumphant outcome of the match.

Bopanna is not getting any younger, but his playing style defies his age. Small wonder, he is the 's oldest number 1 in any discipline. At 43, he is at the summit of the sports he has been playing as a child. He has ensured consistent representation in the grand slams in the past few years. Physicality is not an essential virtue in doubles tennis. For a player is not only covering half the court but most rallies do not progress beyond serve, return and first volley.

Indeed the doubles format is not succeeding to captivate fans. Singles tennis has surged ahead in fan following. Doubles is a game rewarding hand skills, technical mastery and tactical sense. These abilities tend to improve with age making Bopanna a top grade player. His feat will raise the spirit of many ageing players in tennis as well as other disciplines. Indeed Bopanna, Bops to his 36-year old doubles partner Matt Ebden is shining inspiration to many.

It does not matter that his beard has turned grey and he is burlier than he used to be. The step up as World Number 1 in tennis doubles happened when he and Ebden won their quarter final match in the Australian Doubles recently.

Bopanna's feat is a huge milestone for him and others. After all, he has been dumped by Marwe Middelkoop, his previous doubles partner. Indeed he was not in a position of strength when he teamed up with Ebden who was in a similar situation. Tennis chemistry did the rest, especially when the duo won the Indian Wells Title last year. Knees troubled Bopanna. But he overcame it with yoga exercises.

His staying powers paid off with a late career resurgence as Bopanna reached the finals of US Open final 13 years after his first last year. After Leander Paes, Sania Mirza and Mahesh Bhupathi, he is the fourth Indian to become lawn tennis Doubles World Number 1.

Having pivoted to doubles early in his career, he won four Masters 1000 titles and a maiden Grand Slam in mixed doubles. Bopanna stands out among a generation of tennis players veering towards baseline rallies and athleticism; a big serve and a solid forehand being his strong points, he is not quite a typical tennis talent.

But Bopanna has proved that age is just a number. Eyeballs are fewer in the doubles format of tennis, especially since the days when Martina Navratilova, Steffi Graff and John McEnroe used to be the main draws.

His earnings for reaching the semi finals will be far less than what World Singles Women number 1 Iga Swiatek got for her unexpected third round collapse. But fact remains that Bopanna has emerged to the top of the pile.





The Northlines is an independent source on the Web for news, facts and figures relating to Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh and its neighbourhood.

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