Back to training after lockdown, Rohan Bopanna feels like a kid

The tennis star resumed training at his academy near Bengaluru as lockdown protocols eased up in India.

By Utathya Nag ·

Stepping back on the tennis court after an almost three-month long hiatus due to the national lockdown has rolled back the years for 40-year-old Indian tennis star Rohan Bopanna.

“I felt like I was a kid again,” the two-time Olympian told Hindustan Times after hitting the court on Tuesday for his first outdoor practice session since March.

“It was so amazing to be back on court,” the veteran tennis star reiterated, stressing on the emotional relief and excitement associated with going back to doing what he loves..

With the lockdown enforced across India as a precautionary measure against the pandemic, all sporting activities, including outdoor training, had to be put on hold.

But phase-wise relaxation by the government and the Sports Authority of India (SAI) allowing athletes to go back to training while maintaining strict safety protocols since late May has seen some semblance of normalcy being slowly restored in the sporting community.

Easing into his rhythm

Karnataka, the state Rohan Bopanna hails from and is based out of, allowed tennis courts to reopen in and around Bengaluru from May 20 but bad weather prolonged the doubles specialist’s wait.

However, as soon as it was possible, the world no. 37 doubles player wasted no time and headed to the Rohan Bopanna Tennis Academy at Yelahanka located in the suburbs of Bengaluru to resume his training.

“I had a hit for around one-and-a-half hours. I’m taking it very slow right now. I didn’t even serve; just got a feel of hitting some shots again, feel the motion of forehands and backhands; not go for too many sprints.

“I am in no hurry. I want to enjoy just being back on court,” said Rohan Bopanna, whose last professional match was in India’s Davis Cup Qualifiers tie against Croatia in Zagreb early in March, where he partnered Leander Paes to beat Mate Pavic and Franko Skugor.

Pacing himself to regain full match fitness

The 2017 French Open mixed doubles champion, though, admitted that getting match fitness back after the lengthy break may take a while.

“I wasn’t rusty in my hitting, but very much in terms of my movement on the court. After all these days of not hitting, when you have a 10-15 ball rally, you start breathing heavier... it definitely feels different. Tennis fitness and normal fitness are poles apart,” he noted.

“All the wonderful food I ate in Coorg, I can feel it slowly coming out now,” quipped Rohan Bopanna, who spent the lockdown period at his family’s coffee estate in Coorg.

With the ATP yet to announce a revised calendar for postponed tennis events, Rohan Bopanna intends to pace his return as there’s no set time frame to adhere to at the moment.  

“It all depends on the US swing and what ATP decides on that. Till then I’ll take it slow, not try to do too many things and ease back into tennis,” he stated.

The 40-year-old believes intensive three to four days a week training spanning over two to three weeks should do the trick.

Eye on Olympic medal charge

Before the pandemic hit sporting activities globally, Rohan Bopanna had a good start to 2020, winning the Qatar Open title with Dutch partner Wesley Koolhof back in January.

Despite the disruption, the veteran star will be eager to build himself up properly for a medal push at the Olympics in Tokyo next year, especially after narrowly missing out on the mixed doubles bronze medal in the last edition.

“Rio 2016 was very close with Sania Mirza. It was heartbreaking indeed. Getting a medal for India is a very big thing for not just us as players but for the entire nation. 

“And it's my third Olympics. I have a lot of experience now. And I think, if we prepare well, we have a great shot,” Rohan Bopanna had earlier conveyed to the Olympic Channel.