Rohan Bopanna’s tribute to Sania Mirza, his tennis benefits from Iyengar’s Yoga, exposing Shapo to Indian food and of course lots of tennis talk! – with Rohan Bopanna

It has been almost 20 long years since Rohan Bopanna turned pro and started representing India on the big stage. Hailing from the southern Indian State of Karnataka, Rohan has produced some scintillating tennis over his career which puts him at the forefront of Indian tennis legends. With 21 career titles including a Grand Slam Mixed Doubles title in 2017 at the French Open and rising to No.3 in ATP doubles ranking in 2013, Rohan has a redoubtable resume envied by many. 

Rohan is partnering his good friend Denis Shapavalov from Canada at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, California. He sat down with Indian Tennis Daily after their straight set victory against the No.8 seeds Jamie Murray of Great Britain and Bruno Soares of Brazil with a scoreline of 7-6(4) 6-4.

ITD: Rohan, you guys had a big match today and a big win against the No.8 seeds. Can you share your thoughts about it ?

Rohan: I think going into the match we knew it’s going to be tough. The funny thing is, the first time me and Denis teamed up, it was here at Indian Wells and our first match was against Murray and Soares. It was interesting we were playing them here again today after many years. I think we played a very solid match overall. Even though we were a break up in the first set early, they played a couple of good points and got the break back. It was a pretty even match from then till the tie break.  Jamie served pretty well. He was mixing quite a bit and it was not easy in the conditions today. We were returning Bruno’s serve much better and we were putting a lot of pressure on his serve. That kinda made it difficult for them as we were able to hold our serves pretty comfortably and put a lot of pressure on the return games which put us in the driver’s seat. 

ITD: Your next match is against (Santiago)Gonzalez and (Edouard) Roger-Vasselin. What’s going to be your strategy for that match ?

Rohan: I have played Roger quite a bit and together as a partner. So I think we both know each other’s game pretty well. Santiago has been great and he’s already won a couple of titles this year. So obviously, he’s playing with a lot of confidence. I don’t know if they have played together before. But I saw their match earlier and they were playing pretty well. They both were returning very well. So that is something we need to be ready for. They are good doubles players. So we will have to be ready to play another tough match. When you play these Masters tournaments, obviously every match is going to be tough and that’s the way to see it and be ready for it.

ITD: You are so amazingly fit at the age of 42 and you are making another push towards the top 25 in Doubles ranking. Can you share the secret behind this success and longevity?

Rohan: I think discipline is the biggest part of it all. Week in week out I make sure I do my recovery well, I do my stretches well. Iyengar’s Yoga has been a big part of my fitness regime since the past few months. My Yoga teacher has been with me during the Davis cup previously . It’s not easy for him to travel at the moment.  The key difference for me is that I adapt and try to understand what is best for me at the moment. Somedays I dont even practise as my body is not feeling so good and I tell myself that it’s ok and I take a day off. I want to be healthy for my matches. That’s where I want to be competing at my best levels and that’s what keeps me going. Ranking is not something I’m too worried about. I think that will automatically follow if you are playing well in big events. So that takes care of itself.

ITD: You and Shapo (Denis Shapovalov) have been teaming up for a while now. Can you tell us a little bit about your relationship on and off the courts? Did you expose him to Indian food and maybe some Indian music ?

Rohan: Somehow over the years, we have really bonded well together. We understand each other really well. I did take him to a few Indian restaurants. He is not a big fan of the Indian Spices (laughs), he does love the flavours though. I remember in Stuttgart especially, there was an Indian restaurant very close to the hotel we were at. We almost went there 2-3 times in a week. That was something he did enjoy. So yeah we share a good company off the court. That really helps us on the court and keeps us relaxed. He is somebody who has got tremendous talent, plays phenomenally well. Me bringing my experience in the doubles court helps him and keeps him relaxed and makes him play his best tennis. That has helped us play well for a while now.

ITD: We see a lot of doubles impact in Shapo’s singles game as well. His volleying has been great. Do you take any credit for that?

Rohan: It’s no testament from my side. It is all him as a player who is ready to adapt and understand the situations well. In doubles, there are a lot of balls which come to you at the net and you need to be ready for a volley. The significance of that in his singles games is something he has now understood. Doubles also help you a lot in your accuracy of returns and accuracy on your serves. So all of this develops as you play doubles and he has enjoyed it a lot. He has taken a lot of positives from his doubles into his singles game. So all of this makes a big difference.

ITD: Any chance we see your pairing play anytime in India? Maybe at the Tata Open next year?

Rohan:(Laughs) Who knows! Maybe if his calendar is open and he wants to come to India, that is definitely an option.

ITD: Can you tell us about your relationship with coach Scott Davidoff? You have been together for a long time now.

Rohan:I don’t consider him as a coach. He’s more like a family now. I mean it’s been that long for, you know, we’ve shared so much on and off the court. We trust each other when he tells me something or when I tell him this is not working. He listens and understands where I’m coming from and when he usually doesn’t say too much, he tries to be very specific. That’s what really works for me. I mean he’s not sitting there and analysing too much of the game and trying to figure out everything. He keeps it simple, keeps it to the point and I think that has really helped us over the years. He’s somebody who brings in so much experience on the doubles circuit. He’s been on the ATP circuit for such a long time now. And most importantly, he is a fantastic guy. That’s what makes a big difference. I credit Scott for so much success in my life.He plays a big part and a big role for me in my journey leading to where I am today.

ITD: Can you tell us a little bit more about your goals for the rest of the year?

Rohan: Now that I have a full calendar to play with, I will be playing all the Masters series starting here and then Miami and Monte Carlo and all the clay court season leading up to the French Open. I’m thankful for a full ATP calendar and I am looking forward to a successful year and just enjoying my time on the circuit.

ITD: This is Sania’s final year on the tour and you both have been veterans in the game. You both turned pro in 2003 and represented India at the highest levels over 20 years. Do you have any thoughts for her for the rest of the season and wishes for her retirement to come?

Rohan: Sania has inspired so many of us over the years in the way she has conducted herself. Especially off the court. When she comes on the court, it doesn’t matter who the opponent is or what the conditions are, she knows she is extremely confident in her abilities as a tennis player and that is exactly what has taken her to so many fantastic tennis achievements. Credit to her for that. She is a very very dear friend of mine. I’m glad she was able to play for so long and I’m definitely going to miss her when she is not going to be on the tour. I told her a couple of years ago, tennis is such a lonely tour. It’s nice to have somebody from your own country. The inspiration she offers not only to us tennis players but of all sports in India, especially women athletes who have taken her up as a role model has been tremendous. Like you said, she has been representing India over 20+ years at the highest levels and has been absolutely wonderful at it. Credit to her for what she has done. She had an impact on all of us. Hats off to her. I am wishing her all the best for a fantastic season and hope she can finish on a high note. 

ITD: Those were some extremely kind words Rohan. I’m sure Sania would appreciate hearing them. Do you have any words of encouragement for youngsters in India picking up tennis? A lot of them look up to you guys and would want to achieve big.

Rohan: One of the biggest things is that AITA is now having tournaments in India. It encourages a lot of Indian athletes. It is really nice to see Indian tennis players getting to play at home. Over the years, we have missed out on a lot of opportunities as we didn’t have many tournaments here and it’s great to see them now. We have a lot of juniors coming up as well. My biggest advice to the parents is to encourage their kids to play many tournaments at higher levels. So many are just happy keeping their rankings at the same level and not exposing them to bigger events. They keep playing lower level events to maintain their ranking. Rankings should be secondary and they will follow through no matter where you are in your career. Look forward to playing bigger events. That is where you get your experience from.

Also Rohan: Thanks to Indian Tennis Daily for covering a lot of tennis, especially Junior Guys. So at least now I know what is happening at the junior circuit. Also it’s great you guys are covering all the big tournaments like this one. So thanks so much for all the efforts.

Rohan and Denis next play Santiago Gonzalez of Mexico and Edouard Roger-Vasselin of France in the Round of 16 at Indian Wells.

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