At 42, physio and yoga keeping Rohan Bopanna young again

Rohan Bopanna turns 42 on Friday, the first day of India’s Davis Cup tie against Denmark. His twentieth year as a tennis pro has begun with two ATP titles, partnering with compatriot Ramkumar Ramanathan. “Absolutely loving” his tennis currently, Bopanna discussed factors behind his form and longevity.

“I think the biggest aspect of my longevity has been having a physiotherapist with me on the Tour. Having somebody there for warming up, cooling down, recovery while being on the road constantly, ”Bopanna tells The Indian Express. “Of course, it’s an investment you have to put in for your own self, to prolong your career.”

Then there’s the rediscovery. Early 2020, Bopanna was on the mend from a brutal shoulder injury, before Covid-19 stopped playing. Discomfort in the patella (cartilage from Bopanna’s kneecaps is long lost to the grind of the upper echelons) and a cousin’s advice directed him towards Iyengar yoga.

“It has really changed my body over the past two years,” Bopanna says of the form of yoga that focuses on structural alignment through asanas. “It has helped me get stronger naturally using my body weight. And that has made a difference in feeling much healthier on the court. ”

Bopanna has asked his yoga teacher Mohan to join him in Delhi during the week-long Davis Cup preparations. “I’ve been taking a lot of classes because it’s been almost two months since I’ve been in Bangalore. I’m going straight to the US after this tie. So I thought it would be a good time for him to come here to Delhi and really keep that practice going, ”he says.

Listening to body

The Bopanna brand of physicality hasn’t been about being a gym rat or spending hours on court training. “I was always productive in terms of listening to my body. Some days, I would do 20 serves and felt everything was fine, and I’ll stop, ”says Bopanna. “When I listen to my body, exactly how it is feeling, I adapt accordingly. I may not even practice and just take a day off. Now I know how much recovery the body needs, what kind of rest it needs, does it need more practice. Just going on the court and saying, ‘okay, today, I’ll practice three hours every day’, that’s tough. The older you get, you need to listen to your body first. You’ve hit thousands and thousands of tennis balls. It’s not like, I’m going to forget how to hit a tennis ball. ”

There’s no designer diet either, just portion control.

“Today at breakfast, somebody was saying, ‘these young kids eat so much,'” Bopanna laughs. “You just watch and enjoy all these guys going through so much food. They can burn everything. You can’t try and match up to them. You eat what is good for you. ”

Chance pairing

Bopanna and Ramanathan are expected to get India the point in rubber doubles this weekend. In January, they won the Adelaide International and Maharashtra Open ATP 250 tournaments. The pairing consists of two natural ad-courters who rely on big serves and timely volleys. The two came together for the Davis Cup tie in Finland last September (a 7-6 (2), 7-6 (2) loss, but the partnership truly began at year-end, after Bopanna’s regular partner Édouard Roger-Vasselin chose to forego the Adelaide event to compete at the ATP Cup.

“It was a blessing in disguise. Me, Rohan, Sania (Mirza) were on the same flight to Australia via Dubai. Sitting in Dubai, Rohan asked me if I wanted to play with him. Of course, I said yes, ”says Ramanathan. “The styles match as we focus on holding our serves and then take a chance on the returns. Rohan’s experience is a factor as he is always giving me tips, helping me out during my singles matches as well. That’s how trust is built over time. ”

Bopanna, who moved away from his preferred ad-court position to adapt his style, believes Ramanathan will only get better. “I can adapt my game to his style. I thought ad-court was the better side for him. Me and my coach helped him with some double positioning on the court. And he keeps getting better every game, ”says Bopanna. “He has started enjoying it a lot more. And playing with somebody from one’s own country is always easier and more fun. ”


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