A day after the first trickle of players, it was time for the Aircel Chennai Open to open its doors to its first bunch of big-wigs on Friday.
Benoit Paire, Marcel Granollers, Edouard Roger-Vasselin, Bautista Agut and Sergiy Stakhovsky all made sure that the much-touted international footprint was finally visible. But it was something closer home that was the highlight as the Indo-Pak express, of ‘Stop War, Start Tennis’ fame, Rohan Bopanna and Aisam ul-Haq Qureshi, rolled in.
The two last played together in the ATP World Tour Finals in 2011. While Qureshi stuck with the Dutch player Jean-Julien Rojer in all but two tournaments since then, Bopanna, in a sort of musical chairs, changed eight partners. In was only after Wimbledon this year, that he settled with Frenchman Edouard Roger Vasselin, in a partnership which carried him to a career-high ranking of three in doubles.
The itch to mend the severed ties, however, seems to have always been there. “I approached him at the end of 2012 as well,” says Bopanna. “But as a professional, I respected his decision to continue with Rojer. It’s tough to break a winning combination. I enquired again this year and we are now back.”
As a doubles pair, the two offer something close to a comprehensive package. One adept at the net, while the other, with an admirable back-court game; something that was on display at the hour-long hit-in they had under the lights on the centre court.
“We complement each other rather well,” says Qureshi. “I bring certain things to the game and he brings some. We help each other out. I do it with some volleys and he with ground strokes. It’s just natural. We know each other and have played at the highest level for long enough. Bopanna believes I can help him get his first slam. I feel that he can help me do that as well.”
But two years is a pretty long time. As Bopanna says, having played with a slew of partners, brings with it different playing styles. “But, we are more mature. There will be ups and downs, but we have decided to fight it out,” he adds.
Earlier in the day, when quizzed on the re-union, Bopanna’s former teammate Roger Vasselin had this to say, “Its great that they are together. They form a great team. But its bad news for us opponents.”
Now one just hopes it extends beyond 2014, for, in spite of all the unfriendly banter between their respective countries, the two have a lot of love coming their way. The first indications of those will be visible from Monday.