Amidst thunderous acclaim, a 43-year-old veteran lays his India jersey in the middle of the court in a moving gesture.
Rohan Bopanna may not have felt comfortable playing his farewell match at the third tier of the primary team competition as a 20-year Davis Cup veteran with 33 ties and 50 matches under his belt, some against top opposition like Serbia and Brazil.
The 43-year-old, who endured the oppressive Lucknow humidity to compete in India’s World Group 2 match against Morocco to say goodbye to the Davis Cup, didn’t see it that way, though. “If I ever thought that (not playing in World Group 2), I would never be here,” he had said to the reporters before the match on Friday. No matter the level, every tie representing India is a proud moment.
Bopanna experienced that last second to the fullest. Day 1 of the competition saw India in a precarious position as Sasikumar Mukund lost the opening match in his competition debut, and they finished the day tied 1-1. However, in his final Davis Cup match on Sunday, Bopanna and Yuki Bhambri thoroughly dismantled the Moroccan duo of Elliot Benchetrit and Younes Lalami Laaroussi 6-2, 6-1 in just over an hour to give India a lead they never let slip afterward. Sumit Nagal and the second debutant Digvijay Pratap Singh completed the 4-1 victory that returned them to the World Group 1 playoffs.
The outcome seemed academic; the event was more about witnessing a milestone in Bopanna’s career than it was about winning or losing. Bopanna is one of the more understated modern Indian tennis veterans whose longevity and consistency have kept the nation’s representation at the top level of the sport even during one of its most barren periods in history.
Bopanna, who is not one to indulge in jingoism or excessive sentimentality, would mark the occasion with a touching gesture, bringing his India jersey and laying it to rest in the middle of the court to raucous applause from a Lucknow crowd that turned out for the doubles veteran despite the match’s lacklustre attendance on Saturday.
On a day when Bopanna, who is typically cool, seemed to lose his composure, his family and friends showed up in large numbers and celebrated. They were easily identifiable in the t-shirts bearing the image of Bopanna holding the Tricolour.