Rohan Bopanna’s agonizing wait to win his maiden men’s doubles Grand Slam title continued when he lost the hard-fought US Open final with partner Matthew Ebden to defending champions Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury in New York on Friday. Playing only his second men’s doubles final at a Major tournament, Bopanna and his Australian teammate lost the title clash 6-2 3-6 4-6 after two hours and one minute. Ram and Sailsbury became the first team to win three consecutive US Open titles.
Bopanna played the US Open final for the second time in his career and this time as the oldest player at 43 years.
He had finished runner-up with his Pakistani partner Aisam-ul-haq Qureshi way back in 2010 and lost the title clash to the legendary Bryan brothers.
Overall, it was the third Grand Slam final for Bopanna, who won his first and only Major in 2017 when he lifted the French Open mixed doubles trophy with Canadian partner Gabriela Dabrowski.
Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi are only two male tennis players from India to have won Grand Slam titles.
Bopanna and Ebden got the start they wanted and broke their rivals in the very first game. The Indian’s ferocious forehand was at work. He blasted a winner on a weak return to earn three break points.
Ram only helped them by fluffing an easy backhand volley at the first chance. Bopanna consolidated the lead with an easy hold.
The sixth seeds had a chance to go up 3-0, but could not convert the break point as the Brit served at 30-40. The defending champions survived a few anxious moments but eventually got on board after playing three deuce points in the third game. Ebden’s volley winner on Salibury’s return earned them another break point and they sealed it when the Brit was able to collect a half volley.
This put Bopanna and Ebden firmly in control of the contest as they now led the first set 5-2.
The Australian came out to serve the set and delivered. Ebden landed his serves exactly where he wanted to go up 40-0 and Ram hit his forehand return long on the first set point.
Salisbury felt the heat. It was evident when he came out to serve in the second set.
The Briton served two double faults and was down a break point when Bopanna found a screaming backhand winner at 30-all that raced to his left, but eventually the third seed managed to hold the third game to stay alive in the match.
Soon it was Bopanna who was now struggling with his serve. He served a double fault and Ram’s strategy of shooting deep returns unsettled the Indian a bit and it was enough to steal the crucial break that put the holders 4-2 ahead.
After growing in confidence with that break in serve, Ram’s serve improved and Sailsbury’s ground stroke also improved along with movement on the court.
Ram sealed the set with an ace, forcing a decider.
It was clear that the momentum had shifted.
To make things even more difficult for himself, Bopanna was 0-40 down in the opening game of the final set but saved all break points by turning down five straight points for a tough set.
Heart-stopping action followed in the fourth game as Salisbury fended off three break points to stay on serve.
With two teams raising the level of the tennis being played, there was intense action. Bopanna served a double fault at 30-all in the fifth game to be down by another break point.
The Indian went for an all-out forehand winner across the court but missed the line by a very thin margin to hand a crucial break to the rival team who consolidated the break with an easy hold.
Down 2-4 in the final set, Bopanna showed exemplary sportsmanship and character as he conceded a point himself after a ball deflected off his right arm as his serving partner made a forehand return.
It was deemed a winner as the chair umpire failed to notice the deflection, but the Indian himself told the umpire that he conceded the point. Ebden held serve and so did Bopanna in the next game.
Ram came out to serve for the championship and there was no twist in the story.
(With the exception of the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)
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