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Inspiration & perseverance: Bopanna's rise to doubles No. 1

Learn about the Indian star's journey to the top
January 29, 2024
By ATP Staff

Rohan Bopanna on Monday climbed to World No. 1 in the Pepperstone ATP Doubles Rankings for the first time after winning the Australian Open with Matthew Ebden.

Aged 43, Bopanna is the oldest first-time World No. 1 and the third Indian (also Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi, with whom Bopanna won two titles) to accomplish the feat.

“India needed this. We don't really have many tennis players coming up,” Bopanna said following his Australian Open quarter-final, when he secured his ascent to No. 1. “Sport is slowly coming up. I think it's just going to inspire a lot of people. I don't think just in tennis. People all over the world, being 40 and above, I think it's just going to inspire them in a different way."

Bopanna’s aspiration to motivate the next generation has been a longstanding commitment. In 2016, he celebrated his 36th birthday by launching the Rohan Bopanna Tennis Academy in his home city, Bangalore, India. The academy reflects Bopanna’s goal to offer young children in India access to a global standard tennis coaching program.

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While the day-to-day operations continue at RBTA, Bopanna is enjoying his 21st year on Tour. A memorable moment came in the Melbourne first round, when Bopanna collected his 500th tour-level win. The 24-time tour-level titlist has won five ATP Masters 1000 trophies, each with different partners (Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi, Bhupathi, Florin Mergea, Pablo Cuevas and Ebden).

He entered the season’s first major tied at his career-high No. 3, a mark he previously hit in 2013. In the quarter-final round, Bopanna and Ebden defeated Maximo Gonzalez and Andres Molteni, securing the Indian’s rise to World No. 1, a journey that has come with obstacles.

“For me to get to World No. 1, I think [is thanks to] my perseverance to the sport, to stay in it and to keep fighting and to keep working hard and have such a great partner by my side,” Bopanna said. “I think the consistent year we had last year is why this helped me get to this stage.”

One challenge that Bopanna faces is competing with no cartilage in his knees. However, Bopanna has displayed resilience to maintain a high level and at last year’s US Open, he became the oldest Grand Slam doubles finalist in the Open Era.

“It's worn out completely. It's just worn out. It's not a tear. Both my knees have no cartilage and in 2019 I was on two, three painkillers a day,” Bopanna told in September.

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When the ATP Tour was suspended in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Bopanna took advantage of five months away from competition to get his body in peak shape. “That was a blessing in disguise,” he said. Bopanna walked to 90-minute iyengar yoga sessions four times a week.

“That actually made a huge, huge difference,” Bopanna said. “A lot of people talk about how they are benefiting from yoga. I personally say that has made a huge difference. I tried a lot of different methods for my knees. Unfortunately it was not working.

“I think yoga in a way not only strengthened my legs, my body, but also I think made me calmer on the tennis court. It kind of really helped me focus a lot better. I don't feel rushed on the tennis court. I think clearly there. I think that in a big way has made that change.”

Bopanna has enjoyed a successful partnership with Ebden, which began at the start of the 2023 season. They qualified for the prestigious Nitto ATP Finals in their first year as a team, marking Bopanna’s fourth appearance at the year-end event and Ebden’s maiden trip.

“In hindsight it would have been amazing if we would have played for a long period of time, but still, we are enjoying where we are today, and I think there are no real complaints on that,” Bopanna said. “You grow as a team. I think we have also learned from each other, what works for us, what our strengths are, and how we can improve.”

Bopanna and Ebden each hold the same number of Pepperstone ATP Doubles Rankings points, but the Indian holds the top spot because he has played three fewer tournaments to earn those points. Ebden congratulated his partner on the achievement.

“It was a big goal of ours when we started this partnership over a year ago and we talked about it,” Ebden said. “We made our intentions clear, ‘I want to get to World No. 1, win the Slams, the big tournaments.’ We have ticked a lot of boxes the last year and this is another one of those. A huge milestone. It's an incredible thing for Bops, especially at his age.”

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