Soon India will have a Slam winner: Bopanna

New Delhi: After an unprecedented five
Indian tennis players competed at this year`s Wimbledon men`s
doubles event, Rohan Bopanna says the day is not far when the
country gets its first Grand Slam winner from the younger crop
of players.

Apart from seasoned pros Leander Paes and Mahesh
Bhupathi, Bopanna himself, Somdev Devvarman and Harsh Mankad
competed at this year`s Wimbledon.

Paes and Bhupathi have 22 Grand Slam titles between them
and they are the only Slam winners from India in men`s

"To have so many players from India competing at the
highest level is a real boost for the sport. It shows how we
have grown over the past decade and that there is no dearth of
talent in the country. Hopefully sooner rather than later we
will win a Slam title," Bopanna told reporters.

The lanky Karnataka player is also confident of taking
the doubles load in the Davis Cup in case both Paes and
Bhupathi are not there.

"I am always ready to perform for the country at the
highest level and take up doubles responsibilities at the
Davis cup. However, I can`t identify my partner as yet," he

Bopanna`s optimism comes from his improved show on the
doubles circuit, where he is ranked 35 in the world.

He, together with Pakistan`s Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi,
reached the first ever Grand Slam quarter-finals at the

Before that, they won an ATP 250 event in Johannesburg
and ended runners-up in France and Morocco apart from winning
a Challenger tournament in Jersey and making the finals of the
Italy event.

Hence, they, as a team, are ranked 15 in the world.

The Coorgi says he and Qureshi did not expect to reach
that stage of the Wimbledon.

"In all honesty, I would have to confess that, we were
not well prepared. Though grass courts are our favorite
surface, we had not played a grass court tournament for quite
a while leading up to Wimbledon.

"However, we do play well as a team, have confidence in
each others abilities and that teamwork coupled with a lot of
hard work during Wimbledon carried us through," he said.

The Indo-Pak pair drew a lot of attention for the slogan
they carried on their shirts -- `Stop War, Start Tennis`.

On being asked how the idea came about, he explained,
"Aisam was already a champion for peace, an ambassador for
this cause under the patronage of the Prince of Monaco,
through this neutral organisation called Peace and Sport.

"They approached me and believing that sport can be a
catalyst of peace, I decided to join the group of 47 elite
athletes and be the first Indian to be the Champion of Peace.
Given the message, it was Aisam`s coach Robert Davis who came
up with the slogan `Stop War, Start Tennis`."

Bopanna, known for his booming serve, though says media
has the habit of paying too much attention on their

"The only part of the society, that has been making a
hype about our nationalities has been the media. It has been
wonderful playing with Aisam, having known each other for over
14 years now. We both complement each others games and
complement each other as friends off the court as well."

Before tying up in 2007, Bopanna and Aisam were not even
in the top-100 but have galloped to top-40 after that.

Out of all the success, Wimbledon quarter-finals is what
they savour the most.

"Personally our favorite moment would have to be
qualifying for the quarterfinals at the Wimbledon. We have had
other amazing moments, like the run at the 2008 Australian
Open, winning four Challenger Titles in a row in 2007, but
then again, the Wimbledon does stand out."

He misses playing singles but is candid enough to admit
that doubles was the only way to remain in the game.

"Yes, I do miss playing the singles circuit. But looking
at my career practically, playing the doubles circuit has
helped. Playing the doubles has helped my career move forward,
it provides the necessary funding and opportunities to
continue playing Tennis," he said.


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