Meet Rebecca Van Orshaegen, the Belgian Physio behind Rohan`s tennis longevity records

Rebecca has been the physio for Rohan Bopanna and Rajeev Ram for almost an year now. During this timeframe, Rohan has broken numerous records to do with Tennis longevity. ITD caught up with Rebecca to detail this journey so far. 

Interview by Sarika Reddy and Surya Raj

You have been an international tennis player, completed your PhD and now at age 24 – already an ATP Tour Physio with 2 top-10 players. Can you share details on your journey for us?

I have played tennis my whole life since I was eight years old. I did some national tournaments. I did one year where I went to play some international tournaments but I quickly realised it was not my journey to go on. I haven’t really been an international tennis player. So I decided to start physiotherapy in Belgium and I have my Master’s degree since last year in June.

And that’s how I started into the sport.

How did the role with Rohan Bopanna come about?

Last year in October I was working at the European Open in Antwerp in Belgium. I was working there on the medical team and Rohan was playing a tournament and he made the finals. 

We saw each other every day after his matches and we started talking. He was looking for a physio at that moment and I was looking for a job.

Additionally with my background in tennis, we kind of connected very well. We decided to do a trial period for 3 weeks and those three weeks worked out very well and now I’m working for him this year.

What were your initial thoughts when this partnership came about?

With Rohan, the main focus is to keep him healthy. He’s not the youngest player on the tour anymore. There are some little injuries that are still going on from the past years as well. So the main focus is maintaining his health, his physical abilities, keeping him on the court as long as possible, working on those little weaknesses that have to be strengthened. That’s our main focus. As long as we are doing a good job, I’m very happy.

It has been almost a year on the tour for you with the team of Bopanna, Ebden and Coach Scott. How has the experience been for you? 

It’s been amazing. In the beginning, I was a bit tentative not knowing what it was going to be like, how is it going to be to travel so much not being home with my family and friends? When you travel, you always are with your player, the coach and their partner.

To be honest, it’s been amazing. We have great spirit in the team. They are very lovely. Sometimes we go out for dinner after matches. I have a good time working with Rohan and Scott. They are so helpful because it’s also my first job and they always guide me through all the tournaments. Every week I go to another tournament, It’s a new environment for me. I have to figure out how the tournament works, where I have to go to book the physio rooms. They are so helpful in every little detail. I’ve been enjoying my eight-month tour already.

You may have met fellow physiotherapists on the tour, who are working with other players. Can you share more detail on the camaraderie, the learnings and other details?

Of course I’ve met other physios. That’s where most of the time we spend in the physio rooms and in the gyms, and that’s where we connect with other physios. It’s great to talk about the stuff that we’re doing. I studied in Belgium but there are other people who studied in the US, in Asia, in different parts of the world. It’s very interesting to connect with them and see how they work with their players.

You also learn a lot by observing what they are doing with the other players. It’s a great environment to learn. I think most of the physios are also very open to connect and to talk about their stories on the tour. It’s been a very nice journey already.

Being the Physio of the oldest Masters Champion is an incredible accomplishment. How do you feel and how do you see the path forward? 

I’m very proud. Firstly, I’m very proud of what he’s doing. In the beginning of the year, we had a lot of back-to-back matches. After Australia, we had a lot of them. There were days like every day we had matches. I’m very proud that he’s pulling through. We have a good system going on with the recovery of his body and the treatments.

How I see it forward: we see it tournament by tournament. It’s not something you can say like he’s still going to play for six or seven years. You have to be realistic. The main goal is to keep him healthy. As long as he’s feeling great on the court with his body and not in too much pain or that he can move very well, I think we have a good thing going and we keep competing as long as we can.

You are also working with Rajeev Ram. How did that partnership come about and how has that journey been?

When I first connected with Rohan, he told me that he was always sharing a physio with the other players. So I connected with Rajeev in Australia for the first time. We worked together there and then in February he didn’t play, so we started our journey together back in Monte Carlo.  It’s been very pleasant.

They know I work with both of them, so when one has a match, they always say, okay, we have to work around his schedule and if the other one has a match, we work around his schedule. They’re very easy to work with and I’m very blessed to have two players like that who work around each other. I think they’ve been doing it for years, so they’re very used to it.

It’s a good journey and I like working with both of them.

US Open final featured the two players that you work with. A very rare instance. How was that experience and the journey through those two weeks?

New York was a very special tournament for me. Those two weeks were very intense, lots of emotions, stressful situations, loved every minute of it. Great memories! It was my first time in New York, a great city, the atmosphere at the US Open was amazing. And then the results :). We had some close matches, three setters, great battles! The guys were feeling good. 

When we made it into the quarters, I started to imagine how it would be if they both would make it till the end. It would be the icing on the cake if they would play each other in the final. It became reality. We said in the beginning of the year that if they would play each other, that I wouldn’t sit in anyone’s player box and I would just enjoy the match in the stadium. 

The match itself was strange to watch because you want them both to do well. Normally I’m cheering, encouraging them. Now I was cheering for both of them quietly at the same time but only one team could take the trophy home. For me the moment they both reached the finals, It’s a moment that I`ll never forget. 

I was so proud, so happy and I am still extremely proud of them.

You finished one year on the tour now. How do you review it?

It hasn’t been a year yet, it’s been 10 months but it feels like I`ve been around for longer. I really love being on the tour, I enjoy working with my team. It’s been an amazing journey already. I`ve learned a lot the past ten months, talking to coaches and other physios. 

I`ve met so many lovely people on the tour. I`ve grown as a physio but also as a person. You are part of a team, you experience all the emotions, good and bad. It’s such a beautiful job and I really love what I do.

How do you review the final leg of the season and what are the plans for the off-season in terms of training & physio.

Just finished the week in Vienna with Rajeev. 

I will be in Paris with both of them and then lastly the Nitto ATP finals in Turin. I’m very excited. It’s amazing that both of my players are going to Turin. They deserve that spot in the final eight so much, hard work pays off! 

The main focus now is Turin. We are well prepared, they are feeling good on court. The team is ready and excited for the last part of the season. Let’s do this! 

After Turin it will be nice to spend time with family and friends. Time to recharge the batteries, so we can prepare during the off season for 2024.

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