Rohan Bopanna is wearing age with the aplomb of an invincibility cloak. At 43, the champion at Indian Wells, California alongside Aussie Matt Ebden, the Bangalorean became the oldest ever ATP Masters winner. Bopanna and Ebden, unseeded in the event they call the fifth Slam, upset the top-seeds Weseley Koolhof and Neal Skupski 6-3, 2-6, 10-8 to take the title. Bopanna, who’ll move to No. 11 in the rankings, is the oldest player in the top-100 of the ATP individual doubles.
The towering Kodava noted that the real victory was in the journey. “That I was able to pursue my tennis, keep it going and believe that I could win big tournaments (at this age), that has been the biggest feeling for me,” he said. “Having a partner like Matt, we decided last year that the goal was to win these 500, 1000 events. ”
Bopanna, who was ranked a career-best No. 3 a decade ago, said, “I got a lot of messages this week, people are inspired that I was able to do this, show that it is still possible to do this at this age.” Bopanna, who travels with a physio Belgian Rebecca Van Orshaegen and coach American Scot Davidoff, had to put in the hard yards to make this partnership with the 35-year-old Ebden the force it had the potential to be. “I put in a lot of effort, making sure that I recover (physically after every match) to be able to achieve this. That is where my strengths are, constantly finding ways to improve. ”
Bopanna, the only Indian to qualify for the Masters Series event, has been at the receiving end of ‘doubles only’ jibes from former players. Just as well that he has made an art of rolling with the punches. “The only person representing India (here), I really feel proud of that,” Bopanna said. “In tournaments, wherever an athlete is from, the (country’s) flag is out there. It’s always nice to see the Indian flag. ”
The Indo-Aussie pair, who came together after their partners of last year decided to move on, lost their first two matches as a team in Australia in January. Ebden, who had paired with Max Purcell last year, reaching the final of the Australian Open and winning Wimbledon, was perhaps weighed down by the weight of expectation when playing at home.