Rohan Bopanna loses on return to court; US Open next

The 40-year-old Bopanna had finished runner-up at the Cincinnati Masters in 2012, alongside Mahesh Bhupathi.

By Subhayan Dutta

Veteran India doubles tennis player Rohan Bopanna and his Canadian partner Denis Shapovalov lost 4-6, 6(1)-7(7) against the men’s duo of Horacio Zeballos and Marcel Granollers in the first round of the Cincinnati Masters on Sunday.

The 40-year-old Bopanna was playing his first ATP tournament after a five-month-long break owing to the coronavirus pandemic.

Bopanna’s last competitive tournament was India’s Davis Cup tie against Croatia in Zagreb, where he had partnered Leander Paes.

Having previously finished as a runner-up in the Masters 1000 tournament in 2012 alongside Mahesh Bhupathi, the hard-court event served as a warm-up for the Grand Slam winner who will play in the US Open, Rome and Roland Garros in the next few weeks.

Nerves of steel missing

The India-Canadian duo started the match on a toe-to-toe note with their fifth-seeded Spanish-Argentinian counterpart as both held serve until the seventh game.

With the score level at 3-3, Rohan Bopanna and Denis Shapovalov let Horacio Zeballos and Marcel Granollers take an early lead. And though the veteran duo came back to make it 40:40, they were eventually broken.

Cincinnati Masters was Rohan Bopanna’s first major competition since India’s Davis Cup tie against Croatia in March.

Zeballos and Granollers didn’t let the lead slip and won the first set 6-4.

The second set showed more grit from Bopanna and Shapovalov, winning all their service games to take the set to the tie-breaker.

However, their consistency crumbled at the crunch moment as they got broken in the first, fourth and the eighth serves to lose the second set 6(1)-7(7).

India’s Olympic hope

Rohan Bopanna and compatriot Divij Sharan remain India's biggest hope for an Olympic medal in the men’s tennis doubles event.

With the deadline for tennis qualification for the Tokyo Games now pushed to June 7, 2021, the experienced duo - who have previously won the Asian Games gold medal and ATP 250 Tata Open Maharashtra - now has more time.

With the International Tennis Federation (ITF) now revising the ranking formula to help players gather points over a 22-month instead of the convention 12 months, 37th placed Bopanna and 57th positioned Sharan will have multiple chances to improve their rankings as well.