Rohan Bopanna has said he wants to pair with Divij Sharan but their rankings are not high enough. (Image credit: Twitter)
Indian tennis ace Rohan Bopanna on Friday said he plans to team up with Divij Sharan and represent the country at the men's doubles event in next year's Olympics but for that to happen, they need to keep their rankings high. Bopanna started the year playing alongside the left-handed Sharan and won the Pune Open title. "I started in Pune with Divij. Obviously, me and Divij wanted to try to play the whole year together but unfortunately our rankings were not high enough," Bopanna, who has subsequently partnered Canadian Denis Shapovalov, said in an e-mail interaction.
"And we had to forcefully change partners in March because we were not getting into any of the 500s or Masters Series events and with Indian Wells, Miami, Monte Carlo, Barcelona, Monte Carlo, Madrid, Rome all coming up, it was for us to find different partners or just miss the entire season and not play at all. Unfortunately at that point we had no option but to change partners wherever we can play together we are still playing together," he added.
As for playing the Tokyo Olympics with Sharan, he said, "Absolutely for the Olympics, we need to make sure our rankings are high enough to play together. "Wherever we can play together, we are still trying to. That is the key. The good part is that the ranking deadline for the Olympics is the 2020 French Open. So we have a lot of tournaments to really work on and try to get the rankings high enough. And if our rankings are high enough we will definitely be playing together," he added.
Bopanna on Friday received support from athletic footwear and accessories manufacturer, ASICS in his pursuit for a medal at the Olympics. ASICS also tied up with Rohan Bopanna Tennis Academy in Bengaluru to nurture young aspirants to impart training at the state-of-the-art facility. The big-serving Bopanna, who has had a rather moderate season, winning only one title and reaching the final at Stuttgart, said he would be playing the upcoming tournaments with Shapovalov and was looking forward to finishing the year on a strong point.
"It's not the first year I've had a season like this. The main thing to look forward to is the hard-court season and it was a lot better compared to my clay court season for sure. I'm playing more tournaments with a single partner and it has made an immense difference," he said. "I've been playing with Dennis Shapovalov now for a few tournaments. I'm also playing the next two 500s and Masters in Tokyo, Shanghai, Vienna and Paris with Shapovalov. I'm really looking forward to finishing the year pretty strong." The Coorg-born player rated his doubles partner Shapovalov very highly. "I think he is very flamboyant and unique. He is also equally talented as a tennis player. He is super quick so it makes it easy to work with him. He is young and being a left-handed player, he has got an extremely tough service to return," Bopanna said. "That gives me a huge advantage at the net to constantly help him out in doubles. As a player he is just getting better."
Bopanna also praised young Sumit Nagal, who qualified for the US Open main draw and took a set from the legendary Roger Federer in the first round. "I think Sumit is definitely growing as a player and getting a lot more confident. Before coming to the US Open where he took a set from Federer, he had a great clay court season, doing really well in the Challengers. He qualified for the Hamburg 500 event too. Unfortunately, he got hurt there," he said.
"I was watching the qualifying matches in the US Open and he was playing extremely good tennis. I think he is definitely moving in the right direction. Apart from Sumit, even Prajnesh (Gunneswaran) has had a good year. He has sustained his ranking in the top 100."