It’s either Asian Games or US Open, says Bopanna

However, the reigning French Open mixed doubles champion indicated that sacrificing a Grand Slam can be an option for him if he was assured of making the season-end finale.

Bopanna also revealed that he won’t play with Dabrowski at the Australian Open and has chosen to partner Timea Babos from Hungary.   -  G.P. Sampath Kumar

Ace doubles specialist Rohan Bopanna says “it is a catch-22 situation” for him to decide whether to play US Open or the Asian Games in Jakarta later this year since the two events are clashing with each other.

However, the reigning French Open mixed doubles champion indicated that sacrificing a Grand Slam can be an option for him if he was assured of making the season-end finale.

This year, Asian Games are scheduled to be held in Indonesia from August 18 to September 2 while the US Open is slated for August 27 to September 9.

Bopanna had opted out of the last two editions of the Asian Games — Gunagzhou and Incheon — as well as he chose to defend crucial ranking points in 2014 and was in London for the season-finale in 2010 as an alternative.

With both Bopanna and Leander Paes both missing the Asian Games in the last two editions, it did not make much of the difference to India’s medals tally as the country won a men’s doubles gold in 2010 (Somdev Devvarman and Sanam Singh) and a silver in 2014 (Saketh Myneni and Sanam).

India also won the mixed doubles gold with Sania Mirza and Myneni finishing on top of the podium.

Asked what will be his preference, Bopanna replied: “Still a very long way to go. Sometimes it all depends on how rankings are placed, are we seeded or not. It’s somewhere there with the US Open. I have to make that decision later on in the year.

“At the end of the day, it’s not only the Grand Slams we are fighting for, we are also fighting for London Masters (season-end finale),” he said on the sidelines of the Tata Open Maharashtra where he will defend his title.

“Ideally, if we are doing well in the beginning of the year and we have already qualified pretty much there, then I can take that decision that I can skip a Grand Slam. I have to do either, if it’s the same week,” Bopanna said.

Asked how important it is for him to play in such multi- disciplinary events, representing the country, Bopanna said, “It’s an individual sport. Winning a medal for country is very prestigious irrespective of the event. A Grand Slam is also as big for a tennis player. It’s catch-22 situation. It’s not a win-win situation. I have to sacrifice one of the two.”

Bopanna chose to split with Pablo Cuevas and has paired up with Frenchman Edouard Roger-Vasselin for the 2018 season.

The 37-year old from Coorg said it was not a difficult decision to make.

“Edouard’s focus only on doubles helped me make that decision. It always makes a difference. If you want to focus on Master series events and Grand Slams it’s better to play with a doubles specialist. Even scheduling wise.

“Like Cuevas in February was playing a lot on clay in North America and it was easier for me to play in Rotterdam or Dubai. Even getting visa for North America takes two or three weeks,” he said.

Bopanna said by winning the French Open Mixed doubles title with Gabriela Dabrowski, he has achieved a personal milestone but he has his sight set on bigger things.

“The focus is to win consistently the Grand Slams and Masters series and win the London finale and not just be there as top-eight. Winning big tournaments is the focus,” he said.

Bopanna also revealed that he won’t play with Dabrowski at the Australian Open.

“I will play with Timea Babos (from Hungary). The partnership is only for Australian Open and see how it goes. Gabriela also said we should look for new partner. There were some close points which we could not finish.”

Bopanna is defending a lot of points in Pune being a champion from the last edition along with Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan. However, their first match is very tricky as they are up against seasoned Leander Paes and Purav Raja.

Bopanna knows that they have a tough job at hand.

“We have only a handful players playing at the highest level at the Grand Slams and Purav and Leander are one of them. Definitely, it’s going to be a tough first round for both the teams. It’s going to be great match tomorrow night.”

Talking about the phenomena that India’s doubles players are more successful than the singles, Bopanna said it can happen in singles too but for that to happen the country needs to host a lot of tournaments.

India now has six players in top-100. Bopanna is ranked 10 in the world and is followed by Divij Sharan (42), Leander Paes (50), Purav Raja (63), Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan (82) and Vishnu Vardhan (100).

“If we have lot of Futures and Challengers in India, our singles players will also pick up. There are a lot of doubles players because later in their careers (after singles), they still love the sport and see if they can make a career out of it,” he said.

Bopanna also insisted that even being in top-100 does not make life easy for doubles players.

“You are making into the top-100 but you are not making it to all the tournaments. You have to be 30-35 (in rankings) to play a full calendar in doubles. It’s a long way to go. Even to play ATP 250, it’s tough.

“If we have tournaments in India, players will grow. We had two Challengers this year and we had two Indians becoming champions, that’s the beauty of the thing,” he added.

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