Lockdown diaries: I’m seeing my daughter grow on a daily basis, says Bopanna

It is happy family time for tennis star Rohan Bopanna, as his parents, sister, brother-in-law and niece are there together with his wife Supriya and daughter Tridha.

The 40-year-old Rohan Bopanna, who has a mixed Grand Slam title to his credit, is quite mature to look at the crisis scenario with equanimity.   -  Special Arrangement

These are difficult times, but Rohan Bopanna has no complaints. He is at his coffee estate in Coorg, huddled with family.

“We are tackling things on a day-to-day basis. It is not easy to ask the plantation workers to stop. We take precautions. One day we had only the men working. We make sure that they don’t stand close to each other. We are creating awareness. They wash their hands before they go home. It is a challenge for everybody. No matter who you are, it is not easy,” said the former world No. 3 doubles tennis player.

Bopanna, who had helped India win the doubles rubber with Leander Paes against Croatia in Zagreb in losing cause in the Davis Cup in March, feels that he was lucky to be in Coorg instead of the US.

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“During the Davis Cup, everything was fine. After the tie I was in Doha, waiting overnight for the flight to Los Angeles. Sumit Nagal and Prajnesh Gunneswaran travelled through Europe to the US. Since doubles was Friday, I had booked through Doha. I had the option of a hotel in Doha, but stayed at the airport. Physio Gaurang Shukla had also joined me to be on the same flight. About an hour and a half before the morning flight, we got the news that Indian Wells tournament had been cancelled. We managed to change our ticket to India, for the evening. We spent time at the airport, using the swimming pool and the gym, on a pay-and-use basis. We spent nearly 18 hours at the airport. My wife and daughter were supposed to join me in Doha for the US trip. But we had cancelled the plan because the coronavirus situation had started getting serious. We didn’t want to expose the kid,” recalled Bopanna, who was obviously thrilled to spend time with his family in the serene atmosphere of Coorg.

 

It was a 16-hour flight to the US that he skipped, and he felt that had he boarded, he may have been tempted to stay back in the US, looking for other events. It was a blessing in disguise as the situation forced Bopanna to eventually have a good time with his family.

“Even in normal days, there are very few people here in Coorg. It is so peaceful to be with nature. So different from staying in apartments. We have lots of option for walking, jogging. There is one shop where we get our stuff. It opens from 12 noon to 2pm. Only one person goes, as it is easy for the shop to keep a record,” said Bopanna.

It is happy family time for the tennis star, as his parents, sister, brother-in-law and niece are there together with his wife Supriya and 10-month-old daughter Tridha.

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“We closed the academy in Bengaluru and sent the players home till the end of March or till we figure out the situation,” he said. It is a pleasant experience for Bopanna to see his daughter grow on a daily basis, rather than being content watching her on Skype or FaceTime.

“On the positive side, I see my daughter grow. I see her every day. I am so happy to be with her. She is crawling. She is starting to stand up. Being with her is very special,” Bopanna said.

The 40-year-old, who has a mixed Grand Slam title to his credit, is quite mature to look at the crisis scenario with equanimity.

“The ATP events are closed till June 7. It is extremely difficult for everybody. They have frozen the rankings. There is no solution in sight. Eventually, a lot of players may lose points. I can’t be in their shoes. Everyone can’t be happy at the same time. Well, it is not easy to be an athlete at this time,” he observed. There is no question of tennis training for Bopanna.

Bopanna with his wife Supriya.   -  PTI

 

“It is tough to train, not knowing when it is going to start. When you are in the off-season, or coming back from injury, you know how long you are going to train. I don’t see any reason hitting a tennis ball today. (But) There is no purpose to train (right now). That is the tough part,” he said.

Bopanna is happy that he is not just a tennis player, but also has a tennis academy apart from his coffee business. For many, tennis is everything. They lose their earnings when there is a shutdown.

“Not earning money is the tough part. We have to understand. I can’t do much about it. I can’t control things. We are used to a certain life, staying outdoors, constantly being out, travelling. The challenge is to stay positive and find ways to keep well. Years of experience has taught me that it is not only the athlete who is facing the situation; it is for everyone,” he said.

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Such an appreciative outlook on the positives of life in a difficult situation may not be easy for young athletes who may be “focused so much on building a career,” he said. But Bopanna is amazed and amused by the number of solutions offered to counter the coronavirus pandemic.

“On social media, everyone is a doctor! It is very difficult to decide what to believe and what not to believe. I tell my dad, ‘Don’t believe every forwarded message,’” he said.

Understandably proud to have fought hard and won the doubles rubber with Paes “playing his last Davis Cup tie,” Bopanna said India had to win the first singles rubber against Borna Gojo to stand a chance of winning the tie.

“In doubles, we missed match points in the second set. We came back from being a break down in the third to win. After being down 0-2 in the tie, it was special. The quality of the match was very good. What made the difference was that we had trained the whole week. You need to be there, hang out together, to fight through the match. The loss in the first singles match was hard for us,” Bopanna said.

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“Prajnesh will beat Gojo in any Challenger or Tour event when he plays him next time. There is a big difference playing the Tour and playing the Davis Cup for the entire country. If we have to make the World Group, we have to win the singles matches. I talked to the team after the tie in the locker room. (Marin) Cilic under pressure of being 0-1 and Ramkumar (Ramanathan) playing the best match I had ever seen would have given such a different tone to the tie.

“We have to look at Leander Paes, how he breathes fire when he plays the Davis Cup. I have been playing the Davis Cup for 18 years. Playing for the country is so different. Sumit could have played better against Cilic. Prajnesh could have fought even better when he was 2-4 down in the third set. We are there, (but) still we are not there,” Bopanna pointed out.

The last time India figured in the Davis Cup World Group was when Somdev Devvarman and Bopanna “played unbelievable” to win the reverse singles against Brazil in Chennai in 2010 after the team was 0-2 down on the opening day.

Bopanna had played two singles then, while Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi had anchored the revival with the doubles win.

For the moment, Bopanna is happy to push tennis aside and focus on the simple things of life and play with his daughter.