How Iyengar yoga helped Rohan Bopanna become oldest Grand Slam champion | Tennis News - Hindustan Times

How Iyengar yoga helped Rohan Bopanna win Australian Open, become oldest Grand Slam champ

Jan 27, 2024 06:16 PM IST

The doubles world No. 1 contemplated retirement in 2019 due to worn-out knees. Then he discovered Iyengar yoga during the Covid lockdown and his life changed

Rohan Bopanna has had many nicknames in his 20-year career.

Bopanna is set to become the oldest tennis player to achieve the World No. 1 ranking in men's doubles after reaching the semifinals of the Australian Open(PTI)
Bopanna is set to become the oldest tennis player to achieve the World No. 1 ranking in men's doubles after reaching the semifinals of the Australian Open(PTI)

There is the self-explanatory ‘Bops’.

There was ‘Bofors’, a nod to the thunderous serve of the 6-foot-four from a Coorg coffee family.

When Bopanna and Pakistan’s Aisam-al-Qureishi were a team, they were the ‘Indo-Pak Express’.

Now we can call him ‘Greybeard Evergreen’.

This is being written before the Australian Open doubles final between the Indo-Aus pair of Bopanna-Matt Ebden and the Italian combo of Simone Bolelli and Andrea Vavassori.

Rohan Bopanna Australian Open 2024 Final Live score

Irrespective of the result, Bopanna, 43 and with a salt-pepper mane, has emerged as one of the top stories of Melbourne.

Recently he became the oldest men’s doubles world No. 1 in history. Last year, Bopanna was the oldest winner of a Masters Series men’s doubles title when he and Ebden conquered Indian Wells, US.

Iyengar yoga has been one of the main reasons for the longevity of Bopanna, who has earned upwards of $6 million in prize money.

In 2019, he was on the verge of retirement. His knees had almost gone bust and he was on daily painkillers.

“I have no cartilage in my knees. They’re both worn out from wear and tear,” Bopanna said in an interview. Unfortunately, you can’t go and buy cartilage anywhere. I was on two, three painkillers a day. End of 2019, I was in really, really bad shape. I tried to do the PRP [platelet rich plasma], hyaluronic [injection]. Nothing kind of really worked.”

The next year brought Covid. During lockdown, Bopanna discovered Iyengar yoga, which differs from other forms of the discipline due to its use of props and its emphasis on body alignment.

“Those four months sitting at home, trying to find out what to do, that's when I discovered yoga,” Bopanna said. “I tried Iyengar yoga, that's a specific type of yoga. That made a huge, huge difference.”

Elaborating on the point, the winner of the 2017 French Open mixed doubles title said, “It not only strengthened my legs, my body, but also made me calmer. I don't feel rushed on the tennis court [anymore].”

The serve is another key to Bopanna’s longevity. It gets him easy points and helps conserve his energy. Thanks to his height the shot comes naturally to him but much else goes into it. The transfer of weight and power into the serve starts from the legs and then ends with the back and arms. That means hours of gym work. Bopanna also does a lot of target practice.

A nugget of advice from the late Bob Brett, former coach of big servers Boris Becker and Goran Ivanisevic, greatly helped Bopanna.

“He asked me to toss the ball closer to my body. That small change made a difference and today, even the second serve is one of my biggest strengths,” Bopanna said.

The news of Bopanna becoming doubles world No. 1 at 43 resonated with many around the world. Sachin Tendulkar tweeted, “Age is just a number but ‘Number 1’ is not just another number. Congratulations Rohan! Being the oldest World Number 1 in Men’s Doubles is a stellar feat.”

Much of it due to yoga

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