You don’t get to see doubles partnerships as unique as Bopanna and Shapovalov’s too often. They have stuck together for a quite a while, and it’s a delight to watch them play together. In this interaction, Bopanna spills beans on how the partnership with Denis came about, how their friendship has evolved, how he spent time during the lockdown, and his foray into Iyengar Yoga which he says has helped his game tremendously. Full interview below –
Q How does it feel to be back on court after such a long hiatus?
Firstly, I feel fortunate and am thankful to the Grand Slams and the ATP for being able to organise a bunch of tournaments – whether Challenger level or Tour events. It takes tremendous effort and credit goes to the organisers for doing this for the players. I’m really happy to be competing again, especially after sitting at home for five months and not knowing how everything would pan out
Q) After the success at the US Open and Rome, how do you assess your chances for Roland Garros?
We had a great set of few matches in New York and played some good tennis. At Cincinnati, which was the first event back, I expected to be more rusty since I had not played any matches for five months. But surprisingly, I was not. Maybe the fact that I was playing a lot of points, replicating match situations back in the academy with the kids there, helped me get up to speed.
I feel confident going into the French Open. We had a good couple of wins in Rome, and then lost a close match in the quarters. Overall, Denis and myself have been playing well together, but of course, it is going to be tough competition. But that is how it is in a Grand Slam. Having said that, if we play the way we have been playing, we have a really good chance to go deep into the tournament.
Q) How has the lockdown been for? Do you feel the break has helped rejuvenate the mind and body? Did you work on anything specifically?
The lockdown has been a fantastic opportunity for me to spend time with my family. My wife and I had a daughter on the 18th of May last year, so to spend quality time with her and being in one place without worrying about packing and heading to a next city, was amazing. We were in Coorg for two months, where my parents live. It was fantastic to be there given I’ve a huge chunk of my childhood there. It was special to have those memories back again. It’s been 25 years since I’ve stayed put at one place without travelling. So I definitely enjoyed this period and really got to understand myself, as a person. At the age of 40, it helped me get much needed rest and recovery period for my body.
Also, just a couple of months before heading to New York, I started practising Iyengar Yoga with this couple in Bangalore. It felt like my new calling. That has absolutely rejuvenated my body and has helped me in many ways to improve my posture, body strength, etc. It has given me a new perspective coming into the matches and I feel like a stronger person on the court. And of course, it has helped me in playing better tennis as well.
Q) Your partnership with Shapovalov is quite unique. What do you think is making it work?
My partnership with Denis is truly unique, given he is almost 20 years younger than me(laughs).
It all started at Indian Wells last year when I was looking for a partner and you need to combine rankings to get into the doubles draw. All the doubles specialists already had partners so I was checking on as to which singles players I can play with. I saw Denis’ name and decided to send him a text. And Indian Wells is an event where all singles players end up playing doubles as well. So it was nice of him to say yes. Right away, from the first match, we enjoyed the camaraderie between us.
I think I bring in special experience into the doubles format. And his super-fast speed, power and flamboyance, helped my game tremendously as well. So that combination worked for us. Slowly, we started committing to more events – be it 250, 500 or Grand Slams. Slowly, we started to enjoy each other’s company, and I got to know him a lot better. He’s a fantastic guy and he’s doing so much for tennis. It has transformed into an honest friendship and as long as we enjoy playing together, that is what gives us success at the end of the day
A few photos of Rohan during the Rome Masters (Credits – Adelchi Fioriti)