No Nadal-Federer no problem at AO as India in Melbourne celebrates Rohan Bopanna | Tennis News - Hindustan Times
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No Nadal, no Federer at Australian Open? No problem as India in Melbourne celebrates Rohan Bopanna

By, Melbourne
Jan 28, 2024 06:23 AM IST

The absence of Federer and Nadal has hardly made a difference to the Australian Open as organisers are confident about hitting an unprecedented number in 2024.

The last time when neither Rafael Nadal nor Roger Federer was part of the Australian Open was way back in 1999. 25 years ago. It was when, for the first time in his career, Andre Agassi finished the year ranked World No. 1, Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi won three doubles titles, including the French Open and Wimbledon, a 13-year-old Sania Mirza made her debut at the ITF junior circuit, Martina Hingis was in raging form with seven titles and Kim Clijsters took the Newcomer-of-the-Year award. Yeah, that's how long it's been.

India's Rohan Bopanna (R) and Australia's Matthew Ebden celebrate after winning the Australian Open men's doubles title(AFP)
India's Rohan Bopanna (R) and Australia's Matthew Ebden celebrate after winning the Australian Open men's doubles title(AFP)

With Federer retired and Nadal enduring a second-round loss at last year's AO, Melbourne was gearing up to see the Spaniard play his first Grand Slam in a year, before an injury at the Brisbane International earlier this month broke a lot of hearts. The city, host to the Australian Open, has never really recovered from the euphoria of the 2017 final, where Nadal and Federer played out a five-set classic at the Rod Laver Arena. So, expectedly, the bar had been set pretty high. How do you top it? Seven years on, it remains a mystery. There are AO banners everywhere - outside the airport, on the electronic billboards within the city - but a Grand Slam without 'Fedal' for the first time in a quarter of a century had the potential to be a huge bummer. Add to that the absence of local hero Nick Kyrgios, and it's a big void to fill.

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Or so you thought. Because there is a new energy in town. The city seems to have moved on from nostalgia. It loves to revel in the present. A big example is how Gael Monfils was spotted chilling and getting pictures clicked with fans at the Crown Metropol, and the youth raving about Jannik Sinner, whom Australians believe is the best ever to hold a racquet.

In fact, the absence of Federer and Nadal has hardly made a difference to the Australian Open as the organisers are confident about hitting an unprecedented number in 2024.

Has there been a dip?

"Not that we've seen. Tennis Australia are certainly hoping that they will achieve their target of a million visitors this year. The event is growing and what makes the AO special is that there is always a story; there is always an underdog or a new player. And for the Australians, they have really gotten behind de Minaur. He didn't make the quarterfinals but he has captured the attention of the people. So, there is always an up and comer and I think Australian fans of tennis love cheering on and new and are excited about the emerging talent," Shae Keenan, the Chief Marketing Officer at Visit Victoria, tells Hindustan Times.

Events like the Australian Open are pretty huge for the state of Victoria in a couple of different ways. The AO drives significant visitation from people across Australia and, increasingly, people across the world, but it also puts Melbourne and Victoria on the global stage through broadcast so that it allows them to showcase what they known Melbourne does best, i.e. - host major events. It also is the perfect way to encapsulate the vibe of the city in summer and exude the food, the dining, the bars and also their regions - just how close Melbourne is to incredible nature like the Penguins of Phillip Island or the great Ocean Road. Outside of the Australian Open, Melbourne boasts a major-events calendar that celebrates all kind of sports such as the football and Boxing Day Test. Even professional wrestling is slowly clutching its teeth into the Australian market with WWE hosting the Super Show-Down at the MCG in 2018 and more PPVs lined up Down Under for the future.

Indians, Melbourne and Rohan Bopanna

India is one of Victoria's most important tourism markets. It's growing steadily and there are a number of reasons. For starters, Melbourne has the largest Indian community in Australia - vibrant and thriving - and it adds exponentially to the energy of Melbourne. Indian students make up for the majority of it and even the Australian Open has witnessed growing interest from Indians. Cricket obviously takes the top spot in terms of sports but the AO this year has experienced plenty of Indians in attendance across both arenas of the Melbourne Park. And when it is Rohan Bopanna creating history, partnered by Australia's very own Matthew Ebden to win the men's doubles title, Indian and Australians coming together to celebrate one of tennis' most storied finishes is what makes for a dream-come-true moment.

Saturday nights in Melbourne are about the youth dressing up to enjoy an evening of fine wine, beer and the lovely delicacies the city has to offer, but on the way back from the tennis to the main city - Russell Street in particular - a huge chunk of the Indian audience celebrated Bopanna's landmark win. An almost cricket-like atmosphere ensued as chants of "Dhai rupay ki Pepsi, Rohan bhai sexy" - albeit not too loud - capped the electric atmosphere of the 43-year-old's monumental Grand Slam win. And to see some of the Australians joining in on the celebrations was icing on the cake.

Bopanna had won. Indians had won. Melbourne had won.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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    Aditya Bhattacharya is an experienced online sports journalist with a forte in cricket. He has covered the 2016 ICC World T20 in India, the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 in England along with several Ranji Trophy and Vijay Hazare tournaments across the country. When not working, Aditya can be found either hooked to the PlayStation or sharpening the chords on a guitar, while straddling binge-watching and shadow-practicing like Ajay Devgn on two bikes.

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