Sania: 'I would love to partner Bopanna'

Sania Mirza has said her friendship with Rohan Bopanna did not revolve around tennis and that it was not a necessity to partner him in mixed doubles, but added that if the chance arose, the two would play good tennis together.

Sania Mirza (R) and Rohan Bopanna confer briefly at an IPTL match in New Delhi.   -  PTI

Their friendship and camaraderie, they say, goes way beyond tennis but Sania Mirza and Rohan Bopanna are in no hurry to form a mixed doubles team in the coming season despite the speculation that they could be pairing up for India at the Olympic Games next year.

Sania and Bopanna, competing in the International Premier Tennis League (IPTL) for Indian Aces, have lost only one mixed doubles contest in the ongoing edition. With their comradeship all too visible both on and off the court, Sania and Bopanna faced a barrage of questions on whether they could be collaborating in the coming season.

“Rohan was my first partner when I was 14 years old, we have played together in the Hopman Cup, too. And I think we didn’t lose for 8-9 years. Over the years, we know each other so well, and are able to anticipate each other’s games well too. There are so many things which go unsaid in our equation when we are playing,” said Sania, speaking about her team-mate and close friend.

“The beauty of our relationship is that it doesn’t revolve around tennis. He is my best friend off the court too, so it doesn’t mean that I have to play with him all the time. But yes, we would play great tennis together. I would love to partner him,” added the Hyderabadi ace.

Nodding in approval of everything that Sania said, Bopanna had the assembled media laughing by simply adding, “I agree.”

Quizzed again on whether they could be seen together at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Sania said, “We have six months to decide on that. We will take it as it goes.”

Leander and Bopanna unlikely partners in near future

At last night’s game against Japan Warriors, Bopanna teamed up with Croat Ivan Dodig in the men’s doubles clash against his veteran compatriot Leander Paes and Frenchman Pierre-Hugues Herbert. Bopanna and Dodig lost the set in a shootout after giving a tough fight to Paes and Herbert.

Asked about his thoughts on squaring off against Paes, Bopanna said, “I have played Leander many times. In fact, we have played more against each other than with each other.” He was queried on the possibility of partnering each other in the coming season, keeping the Olympics in mind.

Bopanna said, for the time being, he would not break his partnership with Romanian Florin Mergea with whom he won four titles this season. “I am not going to break that partnership. For me and Leander to play together at the Olympics, we have to have the rankings. At current rankings we wouldn’t even make the Masters Series,” he said.

Both players agreed that the IPTL has helped form lasting friendships between the players in a sport which is very individual in its basic form. “Tennis is such a lonely sport, we travel alone on the tour and solve our problems at an individual level. But the IPTL has been different. We are all enjoying the team bonding. We look out for each other during matches. I can say that I have a great new friend in (Indian Aces coach-cum-player) Fabrice Santoro,” said Sania.

“We get along really well as a team and if somebody loses, we share a laugh and it’s a great atmosphere,” added Bopanna.

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