The legendary Rohan Bopanna created history after becoming the oldest man to win a Grand Slam title. At the age of 43, Bopanna won the men’s doubles title along with Australia’s Matthew Ebden after beating the Italian pair of Simone Boleli and Andrea Vavassori 7-6 (7-0), 7-5 on Saturday, January 27 at the Rod Laver Arena.

As he clinched the title with a simple putaway overhead volley, Bopanna fell to the ground before participating in a roaring chest bump, which is now the duo’s signature. An unexpected but heartwarming reaction from the ace tennis player’s usually calm and mild-mannered persona.

Of course, by now, I’m sure a lot of you already know my age, you know how old I am,” he said on court after the final. “But I’ve changed it now. I like to say I’m at level 43, not age 43.” You can’t help but hoot at that iconic statement, right?

Also Read: The “Fit India Champions” Podcast Series Is Here With Champions Like Sheetal Devi, Neeraj Chopra, And More

His Journey To Victory

Four years ago, Rohan Bopanna was on the edge about his future in professional tennis. A Davis Cup veteran, mixed doubles Grand Slam champion, and former doubles World No. 3, Bopanna’s career was on the downslide as a string of physical issues had wiped out the cartilage in both his knees as he entered his forties.

From being on the cusp of retirement to his late-career upswing, a revitalising fitness regimen and an unlikely perfect partnership ensured Rohan Bopanna became a history-maker at the Australian Open on Saturday. The emotions behind his four-year journey were perfectly encapsulated in his reaction to his Grand Slam victory.

Bopanna summed up his emotions while speaking on court after winning the title. “A couple of years ago, I remember sending (my wife) a video message saying I am going to call it a day. I went five months without winning a match,” he said. “But that perseverance inside me kept me going. I’m glad I could do that, and change so many things and find a wonderful partner.” And aren’t we glad too?

A Record-Breaking Performance

At 43, he is now the oldest men’s player to win a Grand Slam title in the Open Era. Earlier this week, he also became the oldest World No.1 in tennis history with Matthew Ebden right behind him — having the same number of points but played more tournaments.

Bopanna broke the record of Jean-Julien Rojer, who won the French Open men’s doubles title alongside Marcelo Arevola at the age of 40 years. It also happened to be the second time that an Indian won the men’s doubles title at Melbourne Park, after Leander Paes and Radek Stepanek back in 2012. Bopanna also won his second Grand Slam title after the 2017 French Open when he partnered Gabriela Dabrowski in the mixed doubles.

Rohan Bopanna oldest tennis player Indian World No. 1 Grand Slam title winner Matthew Ebden Melbourne Park game Australian Open

Last year, Bopanna played in the mixed doubles final along with Sania Mirza, but finished as the runners-up. In the final of the US Open 2023, Bopanna and Ebden lost to the American pair of Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury. However, Bopanna turned his fortunes around in Melbourne Park on Saturday.

Then, he won the Padma Shri among the 7 who were bestowed with the prestigious award in sports. The veteran also completed 500 wins in his professional career earlier this week. It goes without saying that 2024 could not have started on a better note for Rohan Bopanna.

The Winning Game

Bopanna and Ebden dominated the proceedings on serve throughout the one-hour, 40-minute clash, winning 8- per cent of points behind their first landing and did not face a break point. Both the India-Australian pair and the Italian pair held their serves to take the set into a tie-breaker.

In the tie-breaker, Bopanna and Ebden pulled off their A-game and dictated terms to Boleli and Vavassori. It seemed that the second set was also going into a tie-breaker with the scoreline at 5-5. But then, Bopanna and Ebden earned a break of serve to drill the final nail in the coffin.

The Bopanna-Ebden Partnership

Ebden and Bopanna formed an unlikely partnership at the back end of 2022, with both eyeing change at the end of a tough year and having very few other options within the locker room. But they became instantly successful.

Last year, they reached four Masters 1000 finals, winning the title at Indian Wells and reaching the US Open final. The two surged up the rankings and qualified for the year-end ATP finals. Bopanna also reached last year’s Australian Open mixed doubles final alongside Sania Mirza in her final Major.

Despite the remarkable consistency shown by Bopanna and Ebden, the duo’s poor record in finals last year and their inability to get over the line when put under pressure deep into big tournaments had become a challenge to overcome.

They were in a similar situation on Saturday, coming into the match as heavy favourites against unseeded opponents. The first half of the encounter was tense. While the Indo-Australian pair were never behind, they had failed to convert two break point chances early, and were forced to save one at the back end of the set before taking it into a tiebreaker.

Rohan Bopanna boasts of a big serve and solid forehand, but in the latter stages of his career, it has been his quick reflexes and composure at the net that have provided the X factor. Coupled with Ebden’s baseline endurance and solid defensive play, the duo have formed a formidable partnership. And it was that exact pattern of play, accentuating both strengths, that eventually led the Italian pair to blink under pressure and lose a service game to love.

As Ebden served out the match, they would not blink under pressure. After many near losses, he had lost four of the five Major finals — men’s and mixed— he had played before, Bopanna would have his moment. World No.1 and Grand Slam champion.

Rafael Nadal Reacted

Bopanna’s achievement left 22-time Grand Slam winner Rafael Nadal in complete awe. The Spaniard labeled the victory as a “unique” feat. Sharing an Instagram story on Sunday, Nadal wrote, “Congrats Rohan on an amazing and unique achievement!

Talking about his insane laurel, Rohan Bopanna quipped, “Without a doubt the best moment in my career. I mean, there are so many thoughts which are running in the head. It’s ready to explode, having so many things going on. With the year we had last year, to continue and start off like this and win a Grand Slam, no better player to do it with.”

Rohan Bopanna is one of the most decorated Indian tennis players of all time and despite being in his early 40s, the veteran has shown no signs of slowing down. And we’re here to witness all else that Bopanna has in store for fanatics of the game.