YEAR 2024: BOPANNA, AGED 43, WILL BECOME THE OLDEST WORLD NO. 1 IN MEN’S TENNIS DOUBLES HISTORY
By P.T. Bopanna
In a way, Rohan Bopanna becoming the oldest world No. 1 in men’s tennis doubles history, is also a proud moment for me because I had selected him ‘Coorg Person of the Year’ way back in 2010.
The concept of ‘Coorg Person’ was conceived by me in 2005 to create ‘role models’ for the Kodava community. Though Kodavas (Coorgs) were once known for their leadership qualities, the community had not produced many exemplary personalities, except in sports, in the last few decades.
As a chronicler of Kodagu (Coorg), I felt the need to reignite the famed leadership qualities of the community by selecting Coorg Persons who would serve as role models.
I wish to admit that neither I am a great fan of tennis (hockey is the national game of the Kodavas), nor knowledgeable about the game. However, I am a follower of politics.
I selected Rohan Bopanna as Coorg Person because he helped overcome the trust deficit between warring neighbours India and Pakistan to reach the US Open men’s doubles tennis championship with his Pakistani team-mate Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi.
I believe peoples of India and Pakistan have a lot of goodwill for one another, but it is the politicians, especially of the 56” chest kind, who create misunderstanding on both sides of the border. Because Pakistan is a weak country due to long military rule, Indian politicians perform lot of chest thumping to win votes. On the other hand, Indian leaders do not show the same guts when the strong Chinese bully occupies our land.
Sharing below the article I wrote when Rohan Bopanna (in picture) was selected Coorg Person, 2010:
TENNIS ACE ROHAN BOPANNA, COORG PERSON OF THE YEAR, 2010
Indian Davis Cup player Rohan Bopanna who overcame the trust deficit between warring neighbours India and Pakistan to reach the US Open men’s doubles tennis championship with his Pakistani team-mate Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi, is the ‘Coorg Person of the Year, 2010’.
Perhaps for the first time in the troubled history of the two South Asian neighbours, Rohan Bopanna, hailing from Coorg (Kodagu) in Karnataka and his Pakistani doubles partner showed to the world that there was hope for peace if only the two nations began trusting each other and buried their turbulent past.
Nicknamed the “The Indo-Pak Express”, the duo reached the US Open in 2010 where they ended runners-up to the legendary Mike and Bob Bryan of the United States.
The US Open final was a historic occasion as a lot of Pakistanis and Indians in the crowd cheered for the team. There was no way of telling who was Pakistani and who was Indian as the crowds from the two nations joined together to support the same team.
Though Bopanna and Qureshi, 16th seeds, were playing their first ever Grand Slam final, they made the world number one pair work hard for points and played enthralling tennis for more than one-and-a-half hours.
Commenting on the match, Stephen Cohen, an expert on South Asian politics at The Brookings Institute, a non-profit public policy organization based in Washington, D.C., said “It’s pretty much a cold war relationship and these guys are breaking through it. Just trying to be normal people with abnormal governmental relations and I give them a lot of credit for it. They want to ignore politics for human relationships.”
The first time Bopanna and Qureshi realized their potential for change was in 2007, at a tournament in Mumbai. The pair had advanced to the final, but before it started, they watched India and Pakistan play in the cricket World Cup from the players’ lounge.
Qureshi and his father watched the match in which Pakistan lost the match. Qureshi recalled that his disappointment faded when he stepped onto the court and came across hundreds of fans with India’s flag painted on one cheek and Pakistan’s on the other.
“It’s something I’ll never forget. I never expected that we would be able to create such a high”, Qureshi was quoted as saying after the match.
The duo met in India more than a decade ago as youngsters on the ITF Junior circuit and became friends. In 2003, they began playing as a team, and have since won an ATP World Tour title, along with advancing to four other finals in the last few years.
While Bopanna’s tall, lanky frame provides the blistering serves for which he has earned nickname ‘Bofors Bopanna’, Qureshi, a more accomplished singles player, sets up the points.
Born on March 4, 1980, Bopanna started playing tennis when he was 11 years old. Son of Machanda G. Bopanna and Mallika, coffee planters from Coorg, Bopanna was initially trained by Mahesh Bhupathi’s father C.G. Krishna Bhupathi.
Most of his appearances in professional tournaments have been in doubles matches. Bopanna has been a member of India’s Davis Cup team since 2002. He has a Grand Slam title and four ATP Masters 1000 titles in his long career. He has also represented India at the 2012 and 2016 editions of the Olympics. In 2018, Bopanna won the gold medal in the men’s doubles at the 2018 Asian Games. He was conferred the Arjuna award in 2018. Rohan is married to Supriya Annaiah.
Source: Coorg Role Models by P.T. Bopanna, Rolling Stone Publications, 2021.
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