Rohan Bopanna and Matthew Ebden Are Champions In the Desert

Rohan Bopanna and Matthew Ebden upset the top-seeded pair of Neal Skupski and Wesley Koolhof—6-3, 2-6, 10-8—to win the men’s doubles title at the BNP Paribas Open on Saturday night. The victory represented the pair’s first title at the Masters 1000 level, and their second title since they started to play together earlier this year. 

The win marked a major milestone for Bopanna. He not only won the prestigious BNP Paribas Open for the first time, but he also became the oldest man to win a Masters 1000 crown. “It’s special,” said Bopanna. “I am constantly figuring out ways to improve. I enjoy that process.” He added that he appreciates that “many people are inspired by me and the way I do this [at 43 years old.]” Bopanna then joked that he apologized to close friend Daniel Nestor after the finals victory. Nestor formerly held the title of oldest man to win a Masters 1000. 

The Bopanna-Ebden pairing has proved to be incredibly fruitful in their short time together. They won the title in Doha and now have added the BNP Paribas Open to their trophy case. 

When asked how he and Ebden decided to come together, Bopanna laughed and said “our partners dumped us.” In reality, they have known each other for around fifteen years, ever since Bopanna played singles in the Hopman Cup in Australia. The two always believed their skill sets complimented one another, and the opportunity arose earlier this year to play together. 

Their teamwork was on full display during the final. Bopanna ripped ace after ace on key points. Ebden placed groundstrokes masterfully and closed to the net when he had the chance. 

Ebden chose to emphasize practice when discussing his and Bopanna’s chemistry together. He described how they simulate key points that may come up in the course of a match. “We practice our execution. We practice the clutch points. The results are there to show.”

The final match was not without its ups and downs, however. Bopanna and Ebden opened in a dominant fashion, showing no sign of nerves on one of the biggest stages in tennis. They raced out to a 6-3 lead in the first set. But then came the second set. Skupski and Koolhof were ranked number one at the tournament for a reason, and the pair lifted their game to another level. They broke Bopanna and Ebden repeatedly, ultimately winning the second set 6-2.

At this point, Bopanna and Ebden did not lose their cool. “With no-AD scoring, there are a lot of momentum shifts. We expect that,” said Ebden. Bopanna added that after the second set “we reset. Matt took a toilet break, sat down, and took a breath. We then had a very positive start to the [super] tiebreak.” 

Bopanna drew inspiration from representing India at the BNP Paribas Open. “It is nice to see the Indian flag next to my name.” He also got energy from his fans, many of whom are of Indian origin and travel long distances to support him. During the super set tiebreak, fans yelled out in a mixture of Hindi, Kannada, and English, pushing the Indian-Aussie team to victory. At one point, some Indian fans started a chant of “Aussie! Aussie! Aussie!” something that is not commonly heard right now as the Australian cricket team tours India. 

But in tennis, Indian-Australian unity is the name of the game. At the end of the match, Ebden and Bopanna embraced each other and stood victorious in the desert. They now move on to play the Miami Open, where they will look to continue their success.

Full match replay –

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