A story of toil and consistency: The career of Rohan Bopanna

Bopanna turned pro in 2003 and has been a great ambassador for Indian tennis ever since.
By Rahul Venkat

One of the most recognisable names in Indian tennis is the towering Rohan Bopanna. Standing at a little over 6’4”, the Bengaluru native uses his height to great advantage to generate pace on his serves, which is one of his best weapons on court.

His booming serves have been setting courts around the world on fire for many years. The veteran player will turn 40 soon but is still going strong, regularly participating in Grand Slams and other ATP tournaments on the international stage.

He first played for India in the 2002 Davis Cup and turned pro a year later. However, it took him four more years to really establish himself as a player to contend with.

Realizing that he did not quite have the game to play singles, Rohan Bopanna turned all his attention to honing his doubles play and it has reaped him 19 ATP titles across his career, apart from a Grand Slam title.

In 2007, he partnered Pakistani Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi and the pair, dubbed the Indo-Pak Express, turned out to be a fruitful one, winning four Challenger titles in a row.

Though his first ATP doubles title came in 2008 with Eric Butorac at Los Angeles, it was with Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi that Rohan Bopanna really came into prominence.

Breaking into the top 10

The year 2010 was a watershed one for Rohan Bopanna. He won his second ATP title and his first with Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi at Johannesburg and made it to the finals of five other events, including the US Open, his first Grand Slam final.

Though they fell to the legendary Mike Bryan and Bob Bryan pair in the final, it helped him break into the top 20 doubles rankings. He continued to pair up with his Pakistani partner in the coming years, winning three ATP titles in 2011, including his first grass-court crown at the 2011 Halle Open.

He broke into the top 10 in June 2011, ranked ninth and continued to reside in that list, with a few ups and downs, up to the end of 2013. Rohan Bopanna’s highest rank in doubles has been world no.3, which he achieved in 2013.

The Grand Slam dream comes true

Rohan Bopanna has won at least one ATP title every year since 2011, with the one exception being 2016. He won as many as four in 2015, winning the Stuttgart Open and ATP Masters 1000 at Madrid with Florin Mergea and the Dubai and Sydney titles with Daniel Nestor.

After years of toil, the Indian finally won his first and only Grand Slam to date when he triumphed in the 2017 French Open mixed doubles final, along with Canadian Gabriela Dabrowski. It made him the fourth Indian to win a Grand Slam after Leander Paes, Mahesh Bhupathi, and Sania Mirza.

Rohan Bopanna celebrates his 2017 French Open title with Gabriela Dabrowski.

He had the opportunity to double his Grand Slam tally when he made it to the 2018 Australian Open mixed doubles final with Hungarian Timea Babos but the pair lost to Mate Pavic and his former partner Gabriela Dabrowski.

The road ahead

Rohan Bopanna has already won a title in 2020, winning the Qatar Open men’s doubles title with Dutchman Wesley Koolhof and was handed a wildcard entry, along with compatriot Arjun Kadhe, to defend his title at the Tata Open Maharashtra.

The 39-year-old has been slated to partner fellow veteran Sania Mirza at Tokyo 2020, and will want to sign off in the best manner possible in what will, in all probability, be his final appearance at the Olympics.