Photo – Garrett Ellwood/USTA
Sixth seeds Rohan Bopanna and Matthew Ebden are into their second straight Grand Slam Semi Final after a 7-6 6-1 victory over American pair Nathaniel Lammons and Jackson Withrow. After the match they spoke to Ashish Malhotra for ITD and Prajwal Hegde for the Times of India.
Ashish Malhotra: What were your thoughts on the match, especially the first set? I’d lost count, but Prajwal told me it was seven set points you guys saved
Matt Ebden: Set points or break points?
Rohan Bopanna: Set points. 0-40 and then three in the tiebreak
Matt Ebden: Three in the tiebreak, yeah.
Rohan Bopanna: No, four. Two on their serve, two on our serve.
Matt Ebden: Yeah, I forgot the tiebreak, yeah!
Rohan Bopanna: Of course we knew they were coming in as a tough team to play against. Both serve well. They like to keep the points short – take some chances. So we definitely knew we were going to be up against it.
We needed to make sure that we served well and stayed with them. Early in the first set – especially the first game of Lammons, I think Matt was returning really well to start off that game and it was a long deuce game. It easily could have gone our way.
Then a little bit later we had 15-40 as well. Unlucky to not get the break. But I think the biggest thing was to stay in there through and through, because those guys, if you see a lot of their matches, they play well on the tiebreaks. They’ve played well, they’ve won a lot of the matches on tiebreaks, because like I said, they take chances.
But I think what we did strong was, no matter what the scoreline was, we made sure we hung in there and that made the difference. The conditions, even though it was a little cloudy there, the sun. Late in the evening. (It was) extremely humid and draining. Being on court I felt it. Especially in the first game of the second set, after that long first set. It was physical and intense. Because you come out there, you’ve had a tough set mentally as well, coming through that. And then it was crucial to hold that game in that second set.
There was a point where I think (Matt) made a return but not really clean and it was just over the net. Matt was like, go, go, go (to the ball) (laughter).
Sometimes that (luck) makes a difference. Otherwise you’re just going through the flow, hoping to win the point, not really wanting to win the point, especially when your mind is elsewhere and your game.
Prajwal Hegde: A lot of emotion on the court in the previous round. Today you all seem really charged up this time. More than in any other tournament maybe..that’s what I noticed. Is there a reason for it?
Matt Ebden: Maybe it’s the New York energy. I don’t know. I mean, obviously we’re getting more and more comfortable and confident with each other.
Eight months into our partnership now…and we know we’re big match players, we know we’re big tournament players, we know we can win the big tournaments. And I think that gives you confidence and gives you the belief. And then you want to show more energy with the crowd, with each other.
Lots of times I feel very calm, sometimes I feel like I need to bring a little bit more energy. And I think it’s difficult for the opponents too. I mean we had strong support, especially the Indian crowd out there. So we wanted to use that. I felt we did, and I felt it helped us. And maybe in those key moments. Maybe that’s what got us over the line. That little bit of X factor. You know, just getting a ball and saving a break point. Just making an ace, making a reflex, putting the pressure on them, a lot. A lot of pressure the whole match, the whole match, the whole match. And it didn’t really falter, except maybe on breakpoint in the second set. Finally…he went for a second serve. Finally he missed it. So maybe that was an accumulation of the pressure from us.
Rohan Bopanna: And playing away from home, getting some support always is nice. Today. We also had good support the other day.
Ashish Malhotra: Yeah I was going to ask you about the other day. Matt, I felt like today you were the one who was really pumped up, but the other day (Third Round) it was you, Rohan. We didn’t get to speak after that match, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen you that pumped up before. Aside from obviously trying to win slams…are these also the moments that you’re playing for?
Rohan Bopanna: Absolutely. And you know, you have such a fantastic crowd cheering for you being there. So it’s a great feeling. And exactly what [Matt] said, that energy here in New York is different. It’s different. No wonder I love this city. It’s my favourite city in the world.
I think today – you know, it’s those small [things]. Somebody in the crowd cheering you. “Come on Matt” or “Come on Bops.” It makes a difference at the end of the day. So I think we definitely thank all the support we get. it’s fabulous.
Matt Ebden: One comment on that, actually. I remember when we came out for the match.
And we’re in the US Open playing two Americans in the quarterfinals. And they came out. And then we came out and the crowd was much louder when we came out. So I was like, oh wow, this is great. I remember that.
Ashish Malhotra: Indians love their doubles.
Matt Ebden: Exactly right. So I remember that. That tells you a lot.
Prajwal Hegde: I wanted to ask you about the semis. Obviously you just got off the court. But, you know – playing a seasoned team, Herbert and Mahut. Can you talk about them?
Matt Ebden: Yeah, they haven’t played together much the last couple of years. Herbert’s been injured with a bad knee injury. So he’s just been coming back the last few months.
Obviously they’re a great team. They know each other well, they’re a partnership. So they’ve done well I think to find their form and come on through. They’re obviously playing well again. I haven’t watched too many of their matches. Nico, he’s done well to hang around, because I think in the last year he was maybe struggling a bit without partners. But credit to him. He’s still there and now Pierre has come back. They’re playing well obviously. So I’ve got to watch and see how they’ve been playing and get ready for them.
We haven’t played them as a pair, so that will be good. Always fun to play a team you haven’t played yet. But yeah, I mean, obviously we are in good form too and, you know – we want it more than them (smiles)
Prajwal Hegde: Have you all got the schedule? Do you know if you’re playing tomorrow?
Rohan Bopanna: No, I think we play Thursday…Some days the 43 year old needs that extra day off!
Ashish Malhotra: Well, you had a day off after playing two matches in one day. What was yesterday like? What did you do? Even the day before at night – what kind of recovery are you doing?
Rohan Bopanna: I think the number one thing is that recovery part. Making sure I do an ice bath, proper stretching. Get a good massage at the end of the day. I mean, it was a 14 hour day that day…by the time I got back to the hotel. You know, it’s a long day. Yesterday I literally hit for about 30-35 minutes. I took it lightly, but also again did a full on recovery. Did an ice bath, got a massage. And getting the right amount of sleep. I think no matter how much recovery you do, sleep is important. So I got a good eight hour sleep last night because I looked at the weather and I knew it was going to be hot and humid.
The thing is that over the years I’ve learned. I mean, you see the humidity and heat right?
Thankfully for me, I don’t sweat much, which really makes a big difference and helps a lot. But what also has helped over the years of course, playing those long matches in Davis Cup in India and being in this heat, is having a lot of fluids the previous night. The previous night is the key for being prepared for the next day. It’s not about just that morning having that fluid because it’s hot. It makes a huge difference getting electrolytes, getting the right food. And so I’ve made sure of doing that. And these are the small things which help me recover and get ready for the following matches.