Bopanna looks to break into doubles top-10

India fielded three doubles teams in the London Olympics. As the Rio Games approaches, Rohan Bopanna is focused on breaking into the top-10 doubles rankings to ensure an Indian doubles entry at the event.

Ahead of the Olympics, Rohan Bopanna is focused on improving his doubles rankings.   -  K. Bhagya Prakash

Rohan Bopanna is happy about his form in the run up to the French Open. The 36-year-old is keen to ride on the momentum and get into the top-10 of the doubles ranking to ensure an Indian doubles entry for the Olympics. Bopanna, however, knows that it will be difficult with his current rank (13) and Leander Paes being ranked 54.

“We have been winning some close matches. It is good to get some confidence back. Most of the matches are decided on two or three points. The key is to string together four or five matches,” said Bopanna ahead of his men’s doubles semifinal match at Italian Open in Rome. Sixth seeds Bopanna and Romania’s Florin Mergea will take on eighth seeds Vasek Pospisil and Jack Sock.

“Winning a Grand Slam is not easy. So many different players are playing these days. In fact, very few top players are not playing doubles,” Bopanna said. On an ‘Olympic year’, it is natural that Bopanna finds a lot of players, including Rafael Nadal and Fernando Verdasco, playing doubles in the professional circuit, especially, in the Masters events.

“Even if I want to play doubles with Leander, we can’t get into the big events with our rank. Getting an entry in the ATP-500 events itself would be difficult,” said Bopanna, even as he acknowledged many players competing in the professional circuit, with support teams, focused on Olympic preparation.

About playing mixed doubles with Sania Mirza in the two Grand Slams (French Open and Wimbledon) before the Olympics, he said: “I know that Sania is tied up for French Open already. I am yet to finalise my partner. After French Open, if she is not fixed up with another partner, we may play together. I believe in a systematic approach. The main aim is to be in the top-10, and then take it from there.”

Thus, Bopanna is not even interested to think about whom he would prefer as his partner if he makes it to top-10 on June 6.

“Of course, I know that I can play with anyone who has a rank, Leander, Saketh (Myneni), Yuki (Bhambri), if I am in the top-10. But it is not right to think that far now. Actually, I heard that for the next Olympics, the ITF is trying to restrict the partner’s rank to top-300. I also know that there are no wild cards this time in tennis,” said Bopanna.

For the London Olympics, Paes was in the top-10, while Bopanna and Mahesh Bhupathi were just out of the top-10. Thus, with Paes getting a wild card with Vishnu Vardhan, India fielded two teams. In fact, all three teams including the mixed doubles team of Paes and Sania lost to teams that eventually won medals.

Having worked his way through the ranks slowly over the years, Bopanna said that he was not thinking about the results.

“Basically, I am enjoying good tennis. I don’t think too much about other things,” confessed Bopanna.

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