“Every match that we play or I play should be telecasted in India. That’s how interest will be picked up by a young kid”- Rohan Bopanna on what Indian tennis requires

Rohan Bopanna remains the only Indian standing at the Flushing Meadows, progressing in both Mixed Doubles and the Men’s Doubles event. The Indian Tennis Daily caught up with him on the sidelines of the US 2019, where he talks about his partnership with Abigail Spears and Denis Shapovalov. He also shares his thoughts on elemental changes that Indian tennis requires.

Q) This is the first time you have partnered Abigail[Spears] in the mixed doubles

Yes. This is the first time. I have played against her a couple of times. She’s a good doubles player and we combined well together. It was a good first match to start with. I’m happy to be through to the second round.

Q) How did the partnership come about?

Just absolutely random. It just so happened that she happened to be looking for a partner and my coach knows her pretty well. So, I just told him to text, to check whether she is interested in playing and she said yes. So, it was great.

Q) Since Mixed doubles is a Grand-only event- Any preparation that you get to do with your partner?

No, we just went straight onto the court because she was playing women’s doubles today. So, there was no chance to even practice. Like I said, I have known her for so long but never really practiced with her. So straight up was the first point on court. It was good. Sometimes it works that way.

Q) Very good win yesterday in the doubles. Four-time Grand Slam Champions. It looked like you guys had a really dominating win. What do you think contributed to such a win? How did that partnership come along?

We[Rohan Bopanna/ Denis Shapovalov] have been playing pretty well together, starting from Indian Wells. We have played a lot of close matches; lot of tough teams and we have beaten a lot of good teams playing together. And I think it’s just that we enjoy playing with each other. He is an absolutely amazing, talented tennis player. He hits every shot pretty much in the book and which is not in the book as well [laughs]. I mean, he comes up with incredible shots. He has got an incredible leftie serve which helps in the doubles; especially with me being near the net with someone serving really big, it makes it easier for me to cut away the volleys and put a lot of pressure from our side when we are returning. Denis also hits returns very big; he is very very quick on the court. That really helps us do well and play well.

Q) Are we going to see both of you for a long time?

We are playing till the end of the year. We are playing Tokyo, Shanghai, Vienna and Paris. So, we are playing in pretty much all the tournaments which is coming up this year after the Open. So, it’s nice to have someone steady to play these few tournaments. As long as you know I feel that I’m enjoying my tennis and playing well with him, I don’t see why not keep continuing the partnership.

Q) You had a walkover in the doubles.

Yeah, we had a walkover today. We are playing Murray/Skupski tomorrow in the third round and I play my mixed as well tomorrow. Yes, it’s going to be a little later in the evening of course. Because, as you can see, Denis is still playing his singles. So, I don’t think it’s going to be before 2 or 3 pm.

Q) Any thoughts on that match?

I think it’s definitely going to be another tough match for us. I know those guys are very very strong doubles players. They have been playing together now, for a few months as well. They had a good run in Cincinnati. They made the semis in Cincinnati. So, I think we just have to stick to our game plan. If we play to our strengths, I think we definitely have a great chance to go through that match.

Q) This has been a pretty historic US open for us in the singles perspective, first time in 35 years, we had 2 players in the main draw. What do we need to do as a nation to make sure that this is like a regular thing?

First and foremost, I think we just need to have a structure in place in terms of junior format. If you see, there are a lot of private academies, but those really don’t help us like coming through a federation or the government. If you look at Canada for example who is producing amazing number of players. I see that the government is helping these private academies, also in terms of growing these kids in a big way. We need a lot of tournaments at the end of the day. That’s what we need in order to really compete at higher level, more people playing the sport. We have 1 ATP event in India, 1 Challenger in India. So its very hard, it’s very expensive to keep travelling constantly.

I keep saying that, even if we have 1 challenger in each state in India, we can have so many more great players coming out of the country. This has to come, obviously starting from the federation, to take a big call, to make sure these tournaments happen and they need to really look into tennis. Like you said, after so many years we have two players here in the main draw. I think we should take that into consideration. We had Ramkumar playing the qualies, Ankita playing qualies here, 3 of us playing doubles.

I think we just have to not only the use this opportunity to grow tennis in India, but also I feel each and every match we play or I play has to be telecasted in India. That’s how interest will be picked by a young kid. There as to be an inspiration for a young kid. There are so many Masters series when I am playing, not one match is shown in India, which is tough as an Indian athlete, how do you know that somebody is even playing, how do you get inspired? You get inspired of course by watching, and suddenly you have somebody from your own country playing these events, I mean It is fantastic if it can be watched. Those are the few things that can be easily changed and implemented.

I have been saying this for so many years. I have been constantly going and requesting each and every person to try and telecast the matches. Constantly trying to put out there, saying yes, I’m playing tomorrow, hopefully it can be shown. Unfortunately, it’s not been happening. I’m not sure what can be changed there.  We have Sasikumar Mukund. He is playing a Challenger final in China. Even that match can be telecasted. It will be great. It can be live streamed, it doesn’t have to be telecasted on TV. I mean today with so many live streaming options. It will build and grow tennis in India and I think that is the key to you know, really develop, having a structure first and then tournaments and of course having, showing Indian players representing India all over the world and showing their matches.


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