Indian tennis star Rohan Bopanna urged the nation to be patient with its expectations as he felt that it would take a while to develop a champion in the legion of a Rafael Nadal or Roger Federer.
With Indian tennis slowly picking up pace in terms of infrastructure and development, Rohan Bopanna pointed out that it would be unfair to aim for the heights of the sport’s champions immediately.
“Never compare our athletes with Nadal or Federer. We are different, but we can make champions from India,” he said in a webchat hosted by the All India Tennis Association (AITA) with coach Suresh Sonachalam.
“We need to focus on tennis-specific movement at an early age. The knowledge we have in India is very high. Trust our coaches.
“All of us have to come together to make champions,” he said.
Bopanna’s advice to parents and coaches
Rohan Bopanna began playing tennis at the age of 11 and the lack of adequate guidance and fitness in his early years meant that he was rejected for a scholarship to a prestigious coaching centre.
The Indian tennis ace worked hard to make a worthy name for himself and owed a lot to compatriot Mahesh Bhupathi’s father, CGK Bhupathi, who helped him develop a fearsome serve, something that has become his trademark over the years.
Having travelled the tough road initially, Rohan Bopanna had some solid advice for parents who were looking to make their children the next tennis star.
“Parents, trust the coaches. Don’t keep shifting. You don’t shift school so often. Give a coach a minimum of six months,” he said. He also appealed to the coaches to understand the impact of their role in a young player’s development.
“Don’t hold on to the kid. Look at what is better for the kid. You learn something from each person.
“All of us have to work together and take the player forward. I don’t take the same teacher for all the classes in school and college,” he pointed out.
The secret to longevity
Tennis is widely recognized to be one of the most physically demanding sports, and the fitness and fluidity required on court is tremendous. For someone like Rohan Bopanna, who is still going strong at 40, an extra element is necessary to keep going.
“Travelling with a physio has prolonged my career,” the Indian tennis star stated
“I was in Stuttgart last year, practising with Denis Shapovalov, against Alex de Minaur and his partner. Denis Shapovalov moves on court so well, that I may break my ankle if I tried the same.”
Having realised the importance of a physical trainer late in his career, Rohan Bopanna wanted younger players to avail the benefits of one when they started out and has thus appointed renowned trainer Chelston Pinto as the fitness coach at his academy in Bangalore.
The decision has already reaped rewards as Pinto worked closely with Niki Poonacha, with the 24-year-old’s improved movement helping him win the senior national men’s title last year.