No Cartilage, No Problem: 43-Year-Old Bopanna's Historic Feat


No Cartilage, No Problem: 43-Year-Old Bopanna's Historic Feat
No Cartilage, No Problem: 43-Year-Old Bopanna's Historic Feat © Ryan Pierse/Getty Images Sport

In April 2021, Rohan Bopanna, the Indian tennis sensation, found himself at a crossroads in his illustrious career. Fresh from a disheartening loss alongside partner Alexander Bublik in Estoril, he was questioning his path.

Seven consecutive losses to start the season and just a solitary set win left him in deep introspection. Sitting by the tranquil ocean, Bopanna pondered, "What am I even doing? I'm not even winning matches, and I have a family at home.

Should I just call it a day and return?" The four-year-old daughter at home tugged at his heartstrings, urging him to consider life beyond tennis. However, Bopanna's unwavering determination prevailed, and it led him to a remarkable turn of events.

Fast forward to today, the 43-year-old has etched his name in the annals of tennis history. He stands as the oldest Grand Slam doubles finalist in the Open Era, achieving this feat alongside partner Matthew Ebden. Their journey to the US Open final, where they will face Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury, is an inspiring testament to Bopanna's resilience.

Throughout his career, Bopanna has clinched five ATP Masters 1000 titles, each with a different partner. Yet, the Grand Slam men's doubles trophy remained elusive. What makes his journey even more remarkable is the fact that he battles on the court with no cartilage in his knees.

"It's worn out completely," Bopanna reveals, emphasizing the physical challenges he endures. However, a newfound ally emerged in the form of Iyengar yoga, which he embraced during the COVID-19 pandemic's suspension of professional tennis.

The practice, consisting of 90-minute sessions four times a week, transformed his physical well-being. Painkillers were replaced with a pain-free existence, allowing Bopanna to continue pursuing his passion.

Teamwork Drives Bopanna's Renaissance

He attributes this transformation not only to yoga but also to his unwavering dedication and the support of a strong team.

Scott Davidoff, a companion of 12 years, provides invaluable insights into his gameplay. Additionally, the inclusion of Belgian physio Rebecca Van Orshaegen in his team has been a game-changer. Together, they've propelled Bopanna and Ebden to the top of the Pepperstone ATP Live Doubles Teams Rankings, pending their US Open final performance.

Despite numerous career highlights, including his 2010 US Open men's doubles final appearance and a mixed doubles victory at Roland Garros in 2017, Bopanna finds himself in uncharted territory. This Friday, he'll step onto the court for his first men's doubles major final in 13 years.

The wealth of experience gained from partnering with tennis greats like Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi, Mahesh Bhupathi, and Daniel Nestor has fortified his game, fostering a sense of calm and composure. Cartilage or not, Bopanna's journey continues to soar, driven by his family's unwavering support.

His biggest trophy yet remains his cherished goal, and records, though appreciated, aren't his sole focus. His passion for the game and his desire to win, match after match, tournament after tournament, remain undiminished.

Rohan Bopanna's remarkable journey exemplifies the power of resilience and dedication in the world of professional tennis.