A late bloomer
Rohan Bopanna is a late bloomer.
At 30, when most players are in the twilight of their careers and contemplating retirement from a sport that is physically demanding, the Indian seems to be enjoying his best phase.
A super show at the recent US Open, where he made it to the men's doubles final in partnership with Pakistan's Aisam Qureshi, ensured he had to deal with something which he is not quite used to: being in the spotlight.
In Chennai to play the World Group play-off against Brazil and help India reclaim their place among the tennis elite, Bopanna's effort in the opening match against Thomaz Bellucci came in as a whiff of fresh air.
Image: Rohan Bopanna
'Lack of singles matches made the difference'
Known more for his doubles exploits vis-a-vis his singles game, the Bangalore-based player called the shots for most part of the four-and-a-half hour marathon. And even though he finished second best, he had done enough to suggest he still has some years left in him.
Bopanna though was very clear about his inability to finish the match he dominated. "The lack of singles matches made the difference," he said, making what can be termed an honest confession.
"I am not used to playing four-hour-plus matches everyday. So it was not easy," he added.
The match brought back memories of his epic five-set slug fest in the same competition against Martin Verkerk of the Netherlands in Zwolle in 2003.
However, Bopanna was quick to point out the basic difference.
"I didn't have many chances to win that match as Verkerk called the shots throughout and ended up winning," he reasoned. "But, today, I had a lot many chances and, therefore, it is disappointing to have finished second best.
"But the lack of singles matches definitely affected my performance," he reiterated.
Considering the fact that he is enjoying a career-best ranking in doubles, his singles play definitely stands to suffer.
Image: Rohan Bopanna
'I have decided to take doubles more seriously'
He, however, clarified his priorities.
"From a career perspective I have decided to take doubles more seriously," he said, before going on to elaborate.
"I would love to play singles matches on a more regular basis, but I had to make the choice," said Bopanna, adding, "I mean, I am in the top 20 as far as my doubles rankings is concerned but in the singles I am well out of the top 400.
"So the priorities are definitely clear."
The priorities are clear, and so are his intentions. His and partner Qureshi's clarion call for peace during the US Open has had the desired impact.
Salmaan Taseer, the governor of the Punjab province in Pakistan, had recommended the duo's name for the country's highest civilian award and the recommendation has been accepted.
This news has been doing the rounds for quite some time now. However, it was breaking news as far as Bopanna is concerned.
"I am hearing it from you. But it is fantastic news," he said, adding, "Obviously, we (him and Aisam) are doing something right. We will do whatever we can do to get some positive news back in Pakistan.
"We are trying to promote peace through sports."
Image: Rohan Bopanna and Aisam Qureshi