India can win a handful of tennis medals, says Bopanna

By Pragya Tiwari, IANS
Thursday, September 30, 2010

NEW DELHI - Rohan Bopanna is the man of the moment in Indian tennis. After injuries and surgery kept him in the wilderness for years, the 30-year-old is back in the spotlight ahead of the Commonwealth Games, following his stupendous run at the US Open doubles and the victory in the decisive fifth rubber in the Davis Cup against Brazil.

The star status, however, has not affected the Bangalorean fondly called “Bofors” Bopanna for his booming service, one bit. He remains down to earth and speaks his mind out. He honestly believes that India has a chance of finishing with a handful of medals in its Oct. 3-14 Commonwealth Games debut.

Bopanna is paired with with India’s No.1 singles player Somdev Devvarman in the doubles and he plays the mixed event with tennis mom Nirupama Vaidyanathan, who has come out of retirement at 34.

Bopanna does not expect India to have an easy ride, even though they are touted favourites in the absence of top Australian, British and Canadian players.

“Every country will bring their A-Game to the Commonwealth Games and I am not expecting any easy matches. Everyone has an equal chance of winning a medal and there is no room for complacency. But I think the Indians have a strong chance of finishing close to the top,” Bopanna told IANS.

The doubles specialist has had an outstanding year, reaching the doubles finals at the Flushing Meadows with Pakistan’s Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi and then winning the decisive fifth rubber win against world no. 80 Brazilian Ricardo Mello at Chennai to see India stay in the World Group.

Bopanna rates “hard work and determination” the secret behind his success and hopes to be among the medal winner in the Games.

“You have to be dedicated if you want to make it to the top in any field. I also work really hard to maintain my fitness levels and that has helped me beyond measure. I am glad that it’s paying off on the court,” Bopanna said.

“This has been my most successful year on Tour. I am in good touch and confident that if I continue working hard and playing this way I can win a medal for India at the Delhi Games.

“Hopefully I can continue playing the way I am doing and win some Grand Slams.”

A lot of top tennis stars, like former world no.1 Lleyton Hewitt of Australia, World no. 4 Scot Andy Murray, World No. 18 Cypriot Marcos Baghdatis will not be there owing to their preoccupation with the Tour while a few others backed out citing security and health concerns.

Bopanna, however, feels the pullouts will not diminish the charm of the Games which he feels will be a big success.

“It is a great honour to represent India at the Games, regardless of who will or will not be competing. I’m glad so many athletes have turned up and that no country has actually pulled out entirely from the Games. I’m sure it will be a great success.

“Honestly as athletes we’re used to controversies being hyped up and the media playing up a lot of news — so none of us has any apprehensions and we’re all looking forward to it,” he said.

The courts at the refurbished R.K. Khanna Stadium have freshly laid rebound-ace courts which drew quite a bit of criticism as the surface is known to hurt ankles and knee. Bopanna, however, is not too bothered.

“It will be a bit difficult to adapt to the surface, but as a professional on Tour you play at many different venues on a variety of surfaces. So you have to adapt to the conditions and focus on the game,” he said.

The Indian, who had a well deserved break after the Davis Cup, has his goals well set.

“The first target is to win a medal at the New Delhi Games and then make the year-end ATP World Tour Finals where we will be competing with the top 8 doubles teams in the world,” Bopanna said.

“I am glad that the results are going my way and I hope I can continue playing this way for many more years.”

Filed under: Commonwealth Games, Tennis

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