Rohan Bopanna had to wait 14 years to claim his first grand slam title

Basking in the glory of his first Grand Slam title win, Rohan Bopanna says his mixed doubles title triumph at the French Open has strengthened his belief that “one should never give up on dreams”.

Bopanna had to wait for 14 years after turning Pro to clinch a Major trophy, the French Open mixed doubles with Gabriela Dabrwoski, and the 37-year-old said it was worth the wait.

It’s not only the defeats and tough times that teach, certain victories too signal a few things.

“Never give up on your dreams. That is something which stands out (in this win),” Bopanna, only the fourth Indian ever to win a Grand Slam, said after meeting Union Sports Minister Vijay Goel.

He is a late bloomer, who has contributed in some of India’s most memorable Davis Cup wins in singles, but it does not matter.

“Age is only a number. You can’t set a timeline (for achievements). As long as you believe in yourself and keep working hard, nothing can stop you. I worked towards my goal, every single day and I am feeling grateful that my team also put in efforts. Although tennis is an individual sport, everyone has contributed in it,” said the winner of 16 ATP titles.

Mixed doubles is played only at Grand Slams and even considered a side show. Bopanna refused comment on the perception but asserted that to have singles champions, many things need to change in India.

However, nothing can be taken away from Bopanna’s achievement since he took up a sport which hardly finds support from corporates in the country and is in the limelight most of the time for wrong reasons.

When an athlete is recognised only after achieving something at the global stage, such victories are to be savoured and Bopanna is living every moment of it.

“To get singles champions we need to have a system in place at the grassroots level. We have a very limited support from the Federation (AITA), or Corporates. We need that system to compete with European standards. We still have a long way to go,” he said.

So there shouldn’t be complaints about only having doubles champions and not singles?

“It’s not about complaining. We should look at it in a positive way. Everyone from outside plays a part (in progress of a player), whether it is Federation, parents, coaches.

“These guys need support from junior level and that is when you create champions.”

Bopanna is doing his bit for the sport by bringing in foreign coaches at his academy — UK’s Aubrey Barrett and Serbia’s Dragan Bukumirovic.

“I am also bringing a couple of coaches to my academy in Bangalore from outside. They will be here for a year and help these kids. I tell the players if they go outside, go for a year not for a month or so.

“In a month it does not really help improve much. That’s why I am bringing these coaches, let’s hope the kids make good use of this opportunity, coming this month,” he said.

Interestingly, the French Tennis Federation (FFT), which is keen to promote clay court tennis, is also willing to chip in to help Bopanna whose academy has clay courts.

“We have been in talks. Unfortunately our schedule was such (during French Open) that we could not sit and discuss much. Nice that they are encouraging tennis in India.”

Talking about his meeting with Sports Minister Vijay Goel, he said,”I always keep reading that they are doing so much for sports, so it was good to meet him in person. It’s encouraging that they are working on a few things.”

“He was happy that I have started my tennis academy in Bangalore. Let’s see how the government and the players can come together and help the sport.”

Asked if Bopanna will get the Arjuna Award, Goel said, “All deserving players should get it. We will constitute a committee which has set rules. It will decide on that.

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