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Feature: Bopanna and Ebden Have Created a Winning Formula

Bopanna and Ebden Have Created a Winning Formula
October 14, 2023

With a sixth finals appearance for 2023 secured at the Rolex Shanghai Masters, there's no question that Rohan Bopanna and Matt Ebden are feeling very much at home at Asia's only ATP Masters 1000 tournament. 

It's something of a luxury for the doubles stars, from India and Australia respectively, to compete in their own region and as the Perth-based Ebden explains, it helps ease some stresses of travelling on tour.

"It's the same time zone as Perth, so it's literally exactly the same time as my back home and I flew straight here. It was just straight north and not too far, by our standards," he said. 

Shanghai has also been a happy hunting ground for Bopanna and Ebden throughout their earlier careers. 

Bopanna contested the 2012 Rolex Shanghai Masters doubles final alongside countryman Mahesh Bhupathi, while Ebden recorded his best ATP Masters 1000 singles results in reaching the 2011 and 2018 quarterfinals. "I've been coming here a long time and always traditionally played really well here," the Australian said. 

As they add new milestones to a spectacular first season together, Bopanna and Ebden are also in a happy place in their careers. Since combining as partners at the start of the 2023 season, the duo has quickly proven themselves as one of the most formidable teams on tour.

Alongside trophies lifted at Doha and Indian Wells (an ATP Masters 1000 tournament), Bopanna and Ebden have contested three further finals. One of them was the US Open, where the 43-year-old Bopanna became the oldest Grand Slam doubles finalist of the Open era. 

With their semifinal victory over Sadio Doumbia and Fabien Reboul, Bopanna and Ebden also secured a place in next month's season-ending ATP Finals in Torino, Italy - one of the key goals they set at the start of this year. 

"When we spoke last year in Paris, the end of the year, our goals were to do well in the Grand Slams, do well in the big Masters events and of course qualify for the year-end finals," Bopanna explained. 

"I think we really believed that we could do it, especially where we play our own game styles. It took a few tournaments to get going, but I think the biggest key was having trust in each other's game and slowly build from that."

As they managed the pressure of a match tiebreak against the French combination (which followed an earlier three-set win over Karen Khachanov and Andrey Rublev), the fourth-seeded Bopanna and Ebden also showed how much they've gelled as a team. 

Bopanna, who often travels with wife Supriya and daughter Tridha, explained how a seamless partnership is helped by their similar off-court lifestyles.

"Having families at this juncture in our career, kind of also eases the router that, you know, when we come on, the tennis court, practice court, we are focused on that but outside the court, you know, spending time with the family," he said. 

"You know, enjoying the family on the tour and I have a four-year-old. Matt, I know, has a one-and-a-half-year-old son - I think it's a good phase in our journey as well. 

"I know some days when it's a tough loss, it's nice to have the family around, you just put your mind out a little bit and you enjoy the atmosphere and court better."

The 35-year-old Ebden, who is married to Kim and a father to toddler son Harvey, agrees. "We've obviously both been on tour for 20-plus years, and I think with that comes that maturity and that perspective," he related. 

"We know what's what. We know we're going to win, we know we're going to lose sometimes. You get some tough ones along the way, but we keep that perspective and with that sort of experience and maturity I think it's helping us to be even better.  

"I feel both of us are still improving at our other ages, so it's great."

For Bopanna, longevity is helped by travelling with a personal physiotherapist, Belgium's Rebecca Van Orshaegen, throughout the season. He also incorporates Iyengar yoga, which he first took up when tennis was suspended during the pandemic, into his off-court routines. 

"No matter how well you play the sport, if you're physically not there, it does make hi, it does make a difference and yeah, adding yoga to the routine has really made a difference," he explained. "I think mentally, it has helped me be calmer on the court."

It's the perfect mindset to take into Sunday's final, where they'll face No.7 seeds Marcel Granollers and Horacio Zeballos, from Spain and Argentina.  

With the goal to qualify for the ATP Finals this season already achieved, there's also bigger-picture perspective for the pair. 

"I want to go for the next five or more years in doubles and, you know, really go for everything: try to get to No.1, win all the Slams, Masters," said Ebden. "That's the fun and the key for now - and like Bop' said, with our families and partners around."
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