Tennis star Rohan Bopanna conferred with Arjuna award by sports minister

The Asian Games gold medallist says he "would have loved to receive it from the president at the Rashtrapati Bhawan along with other athletes and achievers".

Rohan Bopanna receives the Arjuna Award from union sports minister, Kiren Rijiju. Alongside him is his wife Supriya Annaiah.   -  SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

Rohan Bopanna finally got his hands on the Arjuna award, as he received it from the union sports minister Kiren Rijiju here on Tuesday.

"It is an amazing feeling to hold the award. Definitely, I would have loved to receive it from the President at the Rashtrapati Bhawan, along with other athletes and achievers. But that does not take anything away from the thrill of receiving it," said Bopanna, who received the trophy, along with his wife Supriya Annaiah.

More than the award, Bopanna, a former world No.3 doubles star who narrowly missed the mixed doubles medal with Sania Mirza in the Rio Olympics, said that he was delighted to meet such a sports-loving minister.

"He is such a big tennis fan, and has been watching tennis for a long time. We spoke for nearly 45 minutes and it was great and very positive. He also talked about following women’s cricket, as Smriti Mandhana also got the award today," said Bopanna.

During his interaction with the Sports Minister, Bopanna also requested that all the matches featuring the Indian tennis players on the Tour be streamed live on the internet for the benefit of youngsters in the country.

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"It may be difficult to get it on television, but live streaming is something that can inspire the young players. The minister was very receptive and said that he would see how it can be done," said Bopanna.

Not having received any money so far this year despite being part of the TOPS funding, Bopanna did broach the subject with the minister. He was told that the national tennis federation needed to keep the athletes in its Annual Calendar for Training and Competition (ACTC) so as to make it a smooth affair.

"The SAI Director General, Neelam Kapur was also there. I was told that the medical bill for me and the funds for the first three months had been approved. So, it should be a matter of time before it reaches us. I have already sent all the original bills so far," said Bopanna.

Since Bopanna and Divij Sharan had won the Asian Games doubles gold, they have been kept in the TOPS as a team. Thus, whatever money is sanctioned would be given 50% to the two.

"I would love to continue to play with Divij on the Tour. But, the fact is that with our ranking, we are not getting into the ATP-500 and Masters events. It is not easy to play only the big tournaments with other partners. Even now, the cut for Washington DC is 47. Me and
Denis Shapovalov are one out at the moment, and have to wait. That is the reality. If we don’t play the big tournaments on the Tour, how do we prepare for the Grand Slams and the Olympics," queried Bopanna, who will be partnering Shapovalov till the US Open.