After clinching his maiden Grand Slam title at the French Open on Thursday, Rohan Bopanna said the feat was nothing short of a dream come true.
At the ripe age of 37, Bopanna partnered Canadian Gabriela Dabrowski to triumph in the mixed doubles event at Roland Garros.
“From the time I picked up a tennis racquet, it has always been a dream to win a Grand Slam final so it’s a dream come true for me,” he said.
In the 2010 US Open, there was heart-break for Bopanna as he and his Pakistani partner Aisam Qureshi stumbled at the final hurdle in the men’s doubles category. So the question was whether there was ever a point after that where he doubted if the title would ever come.
“My strength is the fact that I don’t give up. Ever since my junior days, I’ve made a conscious effort to do the simple things right. Like eating well, sleeping well and training hard.
“Since the 2010 final, it has been a personal goal for me to go all the way and the feeling now is really special,” he added.
The Bengalurean revealed that the clay surface wasn’t his favourite but asserted that over the last two years, he has been conditioning himself to adapt to playing on different surfaces.
“Clay definitely isn’t my favourite surface but over the last two years I’ve adapted to conditions. I’m not only serving and volleying but staying back as well and that is something that has helped my game immensely.”
The Bopanna-Dabrowski duo hadn’t dropped a single set en route to the final, but suffered an early setback, losing the opening set 2-6, in the summit clash against Robert Farah and Anna-Lena Gronefeld.
But Bopanna insisted that since, as a pair, they are used to playing the super tie-break on the ATP circuit, they were confident of a comeback.
“Even though we were down, I just kept telling Gabriela that we were still very much in it and that as long as we stayed positive and played that way, the opportunity would come soon.”
It got worse for the duo when they were down match points more than once in the final set and Bopanna, while heaping praise on Dabrowski, said that it was her fantastic return that turned things their way. “At 8-9 we were up against the wall and it could have gone either way but Gabriela pulled off a great return and it was all square at 9-9 and we had the momentum after that.
“All the credit has to go to her for producing such a shot under the circumstances and actually keeping us alive in the tournament.”
Thursday’s final was Bopanna’s first Grand Slam title clash since 2010 and while most players would feel nerves, the strapping India international was quick to refute it.
“Not at all, there were no nerves since I was very well prepared going into the final. I’ve had plenty of experiences playing in the Masters finals and have played some close matches in the recent past. So all of that helped and I definitely was better prepared when compared to 2010,” he asserted.
On Friday, the All India Tennis Association (AITA) had confirmed that they would be nominating Bopanna for this year’s Arjuna Award, news that delighted him greatly.
“I’m really happy that they (AITA) have nominated me again. It happened in 2014 and 2015 but we’ll have to wait and see what happens.”
Having set the bar high with his win in Paris, Bopanna now intends to play as much tennis and possible and with men’s doubles partner Pablo Cuevas, he is setting his sights on qualifying for the World Tour finals in London.