Bopanna stresses importance of specialist singles players

The big-serving Rohan Bopanna has played many memorable singles matches in Davis Cup, against the likes of Martin Verkerk, Victor Troicki, Thomaz Belucci, Ricardo Mello, Rik de Voest etc., ever since he made his debut against Australia in 2002. However, he was not amused about having to step in as a singles player, on an emergency call, in the tie against Korea.

Rohan Bopanna defeated Korean opponent Hong Chung Hong Chung 3-6, 6-3, 6-4.   -  Akhilesh Kumar

The big-serving Rohan Bopanna has played many memorable singles matches in Davis Cup, against the likes of Martin Verkerk, Victor Troicki, Thomaz Belucci, Ricardo Mello, Rik de Voest etc., ever since he made his debut against Australia in 2002. However, he was not amused about having to step in as a singles player, on an emergency call, in the tie against Korea.

Even though he was appreciative of the good work by both Saketh Myneni and Ramkumar Ramanathan, the 36-year-old Bopanna was critical about the need of the players to have fitness to last five sets in Davis Cup play. He equally emphasised the necessity to have the right combination aimed towards winning maximum points from the four singles rubbers.

“Playing singles does not tempt me at all, as I don’t play it any more on the Tour,” said Bopanna, after his fluent victory over the young Chung Hong in the first of the reverse singles matches, when he had to take the place of Saketh Myneni. “It was not because of a fitness issue,” shot back Bopanna, when the memory was jogged to 2008, when he and Prakash Amritraj had won their singles matches on the opening day against Japan that had Kei Nishikori. Once Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi sealed the tie with a win in the doubles, there was none available to play the reverse singles then.

It forced both Leander and Mahesh to reluctantly play the dead singles rubbers in the reverse singles on the third day of the tie. “We were lucky to be up 2-0 and finish it 3-0 in the doubles against Korea here. But, we can’t afford to have two doubles specialists. The match could have easily gone the other way. When you pick a doubles team, it is a technical call,” said Bopanna, asserting that players need to be ready to get on court on all three days.

Conceding the right of the leading player to decide the surface to play when given a choice, Bopanna recalled the fine services of Somdev Devvarman who is recovering from an ankle injury. Bopanna said it was important to play in the Challenger circuit, aimed towards breaking into the ATP Tour events and the Grand Slams. “I was happy when Ramkumar came to Barcelona and stayed with me. Even though he lost in the qualifying event, he got to train with a lot of top players. It is any day better than training in an academy. That is the way to improve,” said Bopanna.

Elaborating further, Bopanna revealed that he had suggested to Ramkumar to compete in the Challenger circuit in the US leading to the US Open. “In between, he can get into the qualifying draws of Tour events, where he will get several good players to practise with apart from good matches,” said Bopanna, genuinely concerned about giving a boost to the players to follow the foot steps of Yuki Bhambri and Somdev Devvarman on the professional Tour, and possibly break into the top-100 some day. That will automatically ensure quality players for national duty in Davis Cup.