US Open: Rohan Bopanna-Matthew Ebden go down in a final of fine margins


Rohan Bopanna narrowly missed out on his first men’s doubles Grand Slam title as he and partner Matthew Ebden went down in the US Open final on Friday. The Indo-Australian pair lost to two-time reigning champions Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 in a match of small margins that was ultimately decided by two breaks of Bopanna’s serve.

Bopanna is the oldest man in the Open era to reach a Grand Slam doubles final at 43 years and 188 days after . He and Ebden started strong, showing no nerves and winning the first set with two breaks of serve. But the defending champions fought back and broken Bopanna’s serve once each in the final two sets to lift their third straight US Open title – also a new record in the Open era.

It was a hard-fought and entertaining final with the sixth seeded Bopanna-Ebden continuing what has been a prolific season with good touch and cracking groundstrokes. Some of the shots of the match came from Bopanna’s racquet, including a stunning down the line backhand after a full-length run to the other end of the court.

However, the experience of their third-seeded opponents proved to be the decisive factor as they stayed calm after going a set down and exploited the openings they got.

A telling stat is that both pairs had the exact same record on break points – 2 out of 7 converted. But both of Bopanna-Ebden’s break came in the first set, while they couldn’t break back in the others.

Nevertheless, it was a momentous occasion for Bopanna to make the final at 43, with a couple of gritty wins in tough conditions. This year’s US Open has been plagued with extreme heat and the final was played in the afternoon with the roof of the Arthur Ashe Stadium partially closed to mitigate the conditions. But the 43-year-old showed his supreme fitness with a comeback win in the semis and the playing the final on the next day.

This was Bopanna’s only second men’s doubles Grand Slam final, coming 13 years after his first, which incidentally was also the US Open where he and Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi – the Indo-Pak Express – went down to the Bryan Brothers. Earlier this year, he had reached the mixed doubles final at the Australian Open with Sania Mirza. He has won just the one Major – the 2017 French Open mixed doubles from five finals across both doubles.

One of the most memorable moments of the final was when Bopanna shown exemplary sporting spirit to concede a point when Ebden’s cross court forehand grazed his elbow – something the referee or opponents didn’t catch on to. It came at a crucial moment too, when the sixth seeds were a break down in the decider and serving to at 0-15 down. But ever the sportsman, Bopanna conceded it and they held. It was an action that earned plaudits from everyone and is a good reminder of the kind of player Bopanna is – the classic competitor, fit and fighting with a great hunger for the game, even when the finals don’t go his way.

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