Having played 21 years for India with consistency, top doubles tennis player Rohan Bopanna bid an emotional adieu to his Davis Cup career by winning his last rubber before his family, friends and fans in Lucknow on Sunday.
Though he wanted to sign off in Davis Cup before his home crowd in Bengaluru, Lucknow fans joined people close to him as they cheered him on at the Vijayant Khand Stadium where India defeated Morocco 3-1 in their World Group II Davis Cup tie.
“It felt like home today as everyone is here to support me. My family, friends, and evens fans, everyone cheered for me. It’s an emotional moment for me, I can’t forget this day ever,” Bopanna said after he and Yuki Bhambri defeated Morocco’s Elliot Benchetrit and Younes Lalami in straight sets in the doubles rubber to give the hosts a 2-1 lead in the best-of-five tie.
All those close t him came from Bengaluru and his native Coorg to see him play in his farewell Davis Cup match. They were all in white T-shirts with the picture of Bopanna, waving the tricolour, on it. When the match finished, the 43-year-old was greeted by his teammates as well as the Moroccan players. Wrapped in the tricolour, he went around the stadium, greeting everyone.
He laid his India shirt on the court to mark the end of his Cup career.
“It’s a long and fantastic journey in Davis Cup after playing my first match in 2002. I always tried to give the best for my country. Playing for India has always been the biggest moment of my career,” he said. “I am happy to be going home with great memories.”
Bopanna will continue playing for India, in the upcoming Asian Games and at the 2024 Paris Olympics, and will play on the ATP Tour. He quit Davis Cup as he wanted someone else to take over his role.
“Time has come when I need to vacate the seat for someone new. There are many youngsters who are ready to grab the spot. For sure, I am going to miss this all, but at the same time it will also allow me to spend quality time with family,” said Bopanna, who played 33 matches across 50 ties, winning 13 doubles and 10 singles matches.
Runner-up at the recent US Open with Matthew Ebden and semi-finalist at the French Open and Wimbledon, Bopanna said the biggest takeaway from his Davis Cup career was that he always tried to win for the country. “I learnt many things in sport and always enjoyed my tennis. I am not leaving tennis as I am available for youngsters all the time, if they need some guidance or tips from me,” he said.
India’s non-playing captain Rohit Rajpal too got emotional as he hugged Bopanna. “It’s mixed feelings. He is like my younger brother; the kind of gap (that) is created now in Indian tennis after his retirement will be difficult to fill soon. He will be remembered as one of the greatest players in India. I am sure he would keep winning many accolades for India in individual events as he still has many years of the sport in him,” said Rajpal.
“Bopanna is not retiring, but will continue playing for India. Tennis is in his DNA, and we are going to miss him for sure. The way Bopanna carried himself in the sport is a remarkable thing and teaches lessons to many youngsters,” coach Zeeshan Ali said.