Highlights

  • Rohan Bopanna to become first-time World No. 1
  • At 43 years of age, Bopanna is oldest player to become No. 1 in rankings

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Watch: Rohan Bopanna's reaction after becoming oldest player to achieve No.1 ranking in men's doubles

"It (the feat) means a lot not to just me but for Indian tennis also. You need something to inspire the next generation. Sumit (Nagal) also had a great Australian Open. He won a round," Bopanna told PTI in an exclusive interview

Watch: Rohan Bopanna's reaction after becoming oldest player to achieve No.1 ranking in men's doubles

Rohan Bopanna feels that his ascent to world No. 1 in doubles rankings at the twilight of his career is the perfect boost that Indian tennis needed just when it was falling off the radar. Bopanna is set to become the oldest tennis player to achieve the world No. 1 ranking in men's doubles after reaching the semifinals of the Australian Open along with his partner Matthew Ebden of Australia here on Wednesday.

The 43-year-old, who had entered the tournament with a career-high ranking of world No. 3, and Ebden recorded a comfortable 6-4 7-6(5) win over sixth-seeded Argentinian duo of Máximo González and Andrés Molteni in the quarterfinals that lasted an hour and 46 minutes here.

Bopanna will be crowned the new numero uno spot on Monday after the end of the tournament.

"It (the feat) means a lot not to just me but to Indian tennis also. You need something to inspire the next generation. Sumit (Nagal) also had a great Australian Open. He won a round," Bopanna told PTI in an exclusive interview from Melbourne.

And the star player said the feat came with a lot of sacrifices.

"Extremely proud of this (world no.1 ranking in men's doubles). It's a special moment. A lot of sacrifices have gone into this. My coaches, family everyone. My family is travelling with me, so different feeling," he said.

In fact, he is more happy that for the past week, Indian tennis has been in the news.

"Nothing at all was happening in Indian tennis. You (journalists) also did not have much to write about, so this has happened at the right time." Earlier, Rajeev Ram of the USA was the oldest player to be ranked world no. 1 when he achieved the top ranking in October 2022 at the age of 38 for the first time in his career.

Ebden, on the other hand, is set to reach the world no 2 spot.

Bopanna twice reached the US Open final but never won a men's doubles major.

He, however, has a mixed doubles trophy at the French Open when he and his partner Gabriela Dabrowski of Canada won the crown at the 2017 French Open, defeating Anna-Lena Grönefeld and Robert Farah in the final 2–6 6–2 12–10.

But Bopanna's desire to win a men's doubles title at the Slam still remains unfulfilled, something which we wants to achieve before hanging up his racquet.

"That's a personal goal (winning men's doubles title at a Grand Slam). It's no one else's goal," he said.

For the veteran, it is always one step at a time.

"When you reach the second round, next you want is the third round then the fourth, quarters, semi-final. So, yes I have been in two Slam final and now want to win but it's a natural. You always try to go one better," Bopanna said about his future goal.

Bopanna, who had achieved the highest of world No. 3 for the first time in 2013, is the fourth Indian after Leander Paes, Mahesh Bhupathi and Sania Mirza to take the world number one rank in doubles.

He also didn't forget to acknowledge the contribution of his long-time coach Scott David of the USA in his breathtaking journey in the game.

"I am probably fifty world number one of coach Scott David. It's a proud moment for him also. I switched to doubles in 2010 and since then I have been with him only," Bopanna said.

Bopanna and Ebden have been one of the most consistent pairs on the tour over the last 12 months. The duo reached the final of US Open 2023, their best result so far in Grand Slams.

En route the semifinals here, the second seeded Bopanna and Ebden, had to over come two close contests in the first and third rounds to book their place in the semifinals.

Their first hurdle came in the opening round against wildcards James Duckworth and Marc Polmans of Australia, whom Bopanna and Ebden defeated 6-7(5) 6-4 6-7(2).

Their next steep challenge came in the third round where they overcame 14th seeds Wesley Koolhof of the Netherlands and Croatian Nikola Mektić 7-6(8) 7-6(4).

And Bopanna attributed the ability to finish close matches to his experience on the circuit.

"Experience is a great factor in getting those wins. Ever since, I started focussing only on doubles in 2010, it has taken me 13-14 years to reach this. I have been a journeyman," said Bopanna, who will take over the top position from USA's Austin Krajicek, who and his Croatian partner Ivan Dodig lost in the second round.

The Indo-Australian pair will play unseeded Tomas Machac of Czech Republic and Chinese Zhizhen Zhang in the semi-finals.

His former Davis Cup teammates Mahesh Bhupathi and Somdev Devvarman termed it as one of the greatest stories in Indian sport.

"Rohan Bopanna getting to World Number 1 today after 20 years on tour in my opinion is one of the greatest stories in Indian Sport!!!," Bhupathi wrote on 'X'.

"Bops first told me he was contemplating retirement 5 years ago, then 4 years ago, then 3 years ago...Moral of the story is.... Who cares... He's number 1! Couldn't be happier for the Bopanna family! rohanbopanna is the best story in indian sport," Devvarman wrote.
(With PTI and AP inputs)


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