India No.1 Rohan Bopanna, playing with Pablo Carreno Busta, went down 3-6 6-3 6-10 to qualifying top seeds Kontinen/Struff in a close tussle. Bopanna, was initially entered to play with Alexander Bublik, but ended up partnering Carreno Busta at the end. Bopanna spoke to Deepthi Indukuri after his match to share his thoughts on it, importance of having a regular partner and his plans for the next few weeks.

All photos by Deepthi Indukuri

Q) You were entered with Alexander Bublik initially here. How did the pairing with PCB come about?

Bublik and myself would not have even gotten into the qualifying. So I had to change partners. Carreno Busta is ranked much higher and we had a good chance to make it into the main draw directly, but certain teams ended up signing in at the last minute, and we didn’t make the cut. When the cut is so high, you have to try and find another partner.

Moreover, Bublik was playing in Marseille until yesterday and there was no chance for him to make it here in time. So I had to either not play at all, or find another partner.

Q) How difficult is it to find a partner at the last minute?

We’ve been doing this for so many years. It’s not convenient, as one would like to stick with the same partner and play lots of tournaments together. But some weeks you have to deal with it.

Q) You played Kontinen/Struff in the semis of ATP 500 Rotterdam semis recently. And now in the final qualifying of Dubai. Does it feel rough to play such a quality pair in qualies? 

It’s tough for them also. In one tournament, we are playing to make it to the finals, and we were playing to make the main draw here. Even they knew that it’s going to be a tough match. So it goes both ways.

The difference was that they have been playing together for a while now. They played the Australian Open together, and they made finals in Rotterdam(ATP 500 event) as well. And when you get into the super tiebreaker, I don’t ever see anyone as favorites in a super tiebreak. It’s one or two points that make the difference. I have played quite a few super tiebreakers in the recent past, won some and lost some.

But I think the ATP has done a great job in introducing qualifiers at the 500 events, which gives opportunities to a few additional teams to try and make the main draw. So no complaints there. 

Q) Thoughts about the match today

Overall, if I look back, I think I played a pretty good match. Just unfortunate that we couldn’t get through. Struff is someone who plays a very heavy ball. His serve is his strength no doubt, but even off the ground, his balls come with a lot of intensity and were coming very deep. It gives his partner, Kontinen, the freedom to play his game as well. He’s also a fantastic doubles player, so it makes it tough to play them. Every time you play a big point, you always know that they are going to hit the ball as hard as they can. So it’s not easy. Credit to them

Q) Plans for the next few weeks

I’m going to be here the whole week training and sign in for a lucky loser spot, in case one opens up. Post that, I fly to Zagreb for the Davis Cup tie, and then Indian Wells and Miami, where I am playing with Denis Shapovalov.

In the bottom row, second from left – Prajnesh and Balu Sir watch on
Bopanna’s wife(Supriya) and daughter(Tridha) watch on
Bottom row – Balu Sir(second from left) and Sadan Haq(first from right)

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