Vijay Yesudas wears a new hat, hurls a volley of queries at Rohan Bopanna

Rohan Bopanna & Vijay Yesudas
Rohan Bopanna and Vijay Yesudas greet each other. Photo: Manorama

Singer Vijay Yesudas is a fervent tennis fan. His excitement was palpable when he had an opportunity to chat with Indian tennis star Rohan Bopanna during the Manorama Sports Awards 2023 ceremony in Kochi on Tuesday. Vijay threw a volley of questions at Bopanna, the oldest tennis player to achieve the World No. 1 ranking in men's doubles, and the veteran answered them with ease and confidence.

Excerpts from their chat: 

You are going through the highest point of your tennis career. However, you had struggled for form not so long ago. How did you overcome that difficult phase? 

 Yes, I had gone through an extremely bad phase. In the first five months of 2021, I could not win a single match. Dispirited, I sent a video message to wife Supriya while I was in Portugal. I told her that I was seriously considering quitting tennis. She comforted me and said that if I felt like walking away from the sport for good, I should think of it. However, she added that if I really loved tennis it was not the right time to quit. "It is better to end your career when you are at the height of your powers," she told me. Those words motivated me to return to the court and do my best. Remarkably, I started to win matches again. I'm hugely indebted to my wife for motivating me to try again rather than giving up. 

Recently, you won the Miami Open doubles title and made history. Coincidently, I did my graduation in Miami. My brother Vinod had represented Miami University in inter-university tennis competitions. My father is also an avid tennis fan. On many occasions, he has postponed song recording sessions to play tennis. Let me tell you that every member of our family loves and follows the game. I would like to ask you how much influence did the bronze medal won by Leander Paes at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics have on your career? 

Undoubtedly, that medal has had a huge impact on not only me, but on every sportsperson in India. Leander's feat definitely inspired me to pursue a career in sports. I have qualified for the 2024 Paris Olympics, and I'm grateful to Leander for showing us the way. 

While watching a basketball match, my son was surprised to find that veteran NBA star LeBron James was much younger than me. I told him that professional athletes start at a very young age. You are 44 now and are still going strong. What is the key to your longevity?

In my 20s, my fitness schedule revolved around workouts and strict diets. Today, I follow an entirely different fitness programme. Nowadays, I train for just about one or one-and-a-half hours. I do yoga and take ice baths and make sure I get a full seven to eight hours of sleep each day.

As a professional player, how do you face the challenges of balancing life on the road with family commitments?

It is not easy to live away from your family. However, being professionals we will have to travel a lot and perform at our best. When I play in countries with different time zones, I find it difficult to communicate with my family. With the advancements in technology such as real-time video calling and chatting apps, life has become much easier now. 

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