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At the age of 43, Indian tennis star Rohan Bopanna is making history – with a little help from Iyengar yoga

Rohan Bopanna is set to become the world’s oldest No.1 tennis player in history at the age of 43 – with a little help from Iyengar yoga.

Bopanna, who says he has no cartilage in his knees – “it’s completely worn out” – and doubles partner Matthew Ebden defeated Maximo Gonzalez and Andres Molteni at the Australian Open Wednesday.

The duo beat the sixth-seeded Argentines 6-4 7-6(7-5) to reach their third straight grand slam semifinal as a pair, and then defeated unseeded Tomas Machac and Zhang Zhizhen on Thursday, advancing in the tie-break to reach the final.

“I think for every player out there, it is a dream,” Bopanna said.

“It was my dream, and more so when you’re playing the sport for couple of decades. Then now at this juncture for me to get to world No. 1, I think my perseverance to the sport, to stay in it and to keep fighting and to keep working hard, and have such a great partner by my side — I think the consistent year we had last year is why… This helped me get to this stage,” he added.

Bopanna, who will go to the top of the rankings in doubles on Monday, hopes his achievement will act as an inspiration to others.

“I don’t think just in tennis. People all over the world, being 40 and above, I think it’s just going to inspire them in a different way,” he said.

Bopanna and Ebden defeated Tomas Machac of Czech Republic and Zhang Zhizhen of China on the 12th day of the Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 25, 2024. - Andy Cheung/Getty Images

After taking up tennis at 11 and deciding to pursue it as a career at 19, Bopanna turned professional in 2003 and claimed his first ATP title in 2008, winning the Los Angeles Open with Eric Butorac.

Bopanna attributed yoga, which he started practising during the Covid-19 pandemic, as helping improve his tennis in recent years.

“[It] always was there in India, but I never really tried it. I just thought it was something I wouldn’t enjoy so much,” said Bopanna.

But with a local studio near his home, Bopanna tried Iyengar yoga, which he practiced four times a week for 90 minutes.

“That actually tremendously made a huge, huge difference … yoga in a way not only strengthens my legs, my body, but also I think made me calmer on the tennis court,” explained Bopanna, adding that his focus has improved.

Next, second-seeded Bopanna and Australian Ebden will face Italians Simone Bolelli and Andrea Vavassor as the Indian seeks his first major title, and the Australian his second.

Ebden took home a Wimbledon win in 2022 with Max Purcell, while Bopanna, though he has never won a slam, is winner of 24 ATP doubles titles and a gold medallist at the Asian Games.

“It’s amazing to be back in another grand slam final, and a different grand slam, you know, especially I think – I know for Matt it’s definitely the home grand slam,” reflected Bopanna, who hopes to play at the Paris Olympics later this year.

“For me also I consider this a lot to be the home Grand Slam, coming from the Asian continent.”

Bopanna’s success with Ebden at the Australian Open has generated a “lot of, a lot of messages, a lot of love,” according to the Indian tennis star.

“You know, I think once the tournament is fully done and I have a couple of weeks at home at least, I think I can really, you know, relive that moment,” reflected Bopanna.

But of course very, very proud to be in this position and be ranked as the No. 1 player in the world.”

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