With his resounding victory at the Australian Open against Italians Simone Boleili and Andrea Vavassori, 43-year-old Machanda Rohan Bopanna from Kodagu has officially etched his name as the oldest-ever Grand Slam winner.
For Rohan Bopanna, 2024 could not have started in a better way. The last 7 days have been nothing short of a fairytale for the Indian tennis star, who has been on top of his game in the last 12 months or so. On Thursday, Bopanna was among the seven recipients of the prestigious Padma Shri.
The Indo-Australian pairing of Bopanna and Matthew Ebden engaged in a fierce battle against the Italians on Saturday, emerging victorious in two sets of 7-6, 7-5. The intense encounter, lasting 1 hour and 39 minutes at the Rod Laver Arena, marked the pair’s inaugural title as a team and Bopanna’s first men’s doubles triumph after participating in 60 previous Grand Slams — a record for the most attempts before clinching victory.
Bopanna, at 43, now surpasses Dutchman Jean-Julien Rojer, who secured the French Open men’s doubles title at the age of 40 alongside partner Marcelo Arevola.
The win also positions Bopanna to become the oldest number one in men’s doubles history when the new rankings are released next week. This triumph at the Australian Open signifies Bopanna’s second Grand Slam in his illustrious career, following his earlier success at the 2017 French Open in mixed doubles with Canada’s Gabriela Dabrowski.
The victory also marks Ebden’s second men’s doubles title, following his Wimbledon win in 2022 with fellow Australian Max Purcell. In the final, the Bopanna-Ebden duo took the lead by winning the first game of the initial set with straight serves. Subsequently, the Italian pair of Bolelli-Vavassori intensified the competition.
The first set was a closely contested battle that went down to the wire at 6-6, when Bopanna and Ebden launched an offensive blitz, scoring seven straight points to secure the set 7-6 after 51 minutes of relentless action. The second set followed a similar narrative, with both pairs going blow-for-blow in each game, maintaining a tight contest until it reached 5-5. Once again, Bopanna and Ebden surged ahead in the final two games to win the set 7-5 and claim the title.
Four years ago, Rohan faced uncertainties about his future in professional tennis. Despite being a Davis Cup veteran, a mixed doubles Grand Slam champion and former doubles World No.3, physical issues had taken a toll on his knees. As he clinched the title with a simple putaway overhead volley, Bopanna fell to the ground, celebrating with a roaring chest bump — a departure from his usually calm demeanour.
Reflecting on his journey, Bopanna shared his emotions on court after the victory. “A couple of years ago, I remember sending (my wife) a video message saying I am going to call it a day. I went five months without winning a match. But that perseverance inside me kept me going. I’m glad I could change so many things and find a wonderful partner,” he said.
“Of course, by now, I’m sure a lot of you know my age,” he said on court after the final. “But I’ve changed it now. I like to say I’m at level 43, not age 43.”
PM Modi showers praises:
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday showered praise on Rohan Bopanna.
Time and again, the phenomenally talented @rohanbopanna shows age is no bar!
Congratulations to him on his historic Australian Open win.
His remarkable journey is a beautiful reminder that it is always our spirit, hard work and perseverance that define our capabilities.
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) January 27, 2024