Melbourne | Rohan Bopanna became only the third Indian to win a men's doubles Grand Slam title, taking the Australian Open crown with partner Matthew Ebden following a commanding win over Simone Bolelli and Andrea Vavassori, here on Saturday.
In a high-quality game of tennis, second seeded Bopanna and Ebden won 7-6(0) 7-5 against the Italian team in the final that lasted one hour and 39 minutes.
Only the iconic Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi have won Major titles for India in men's tennis while trailblazer Sania Mirza did it in women's tennis.
For Bopanna it is his second Grand Slam title, having won the French Open mixed doubles trophy with Canada's Gabriela Dabrowski in 2017.
At 43, Bopanna also became the oldest Grand Slam champion in men's tennis. He bettered the record of Jean-Julien Rojer who, at age of 40, had lifted the French Open men's doubles trophy in 2022 with Marcelo Arevola.
Bopanna was playing his third men's doubles final at Grand Slam events, having ended runner-up at US Open twice (2013, 2023).
"A couple of years ago I said in a video message, I am going to call it a day because I was not winning matches. I went five months without winning a match. I thought that was the end of my journey but my perseverance, and (something) inside me kept me going," Bopanna said after his triumph.
"It really changed so many things, I got a wonderful partner to get me to all the laurels," he added.
Bopanna is already assured of becoming the new number one on Monday when the ATP rankings will be updated. At 43, he will be the oldest player to be perched on top of the ranking pile.
Bopanna acknowledged the contribution of his Australian partner Ebden and his American coach Scott Davidoff in his success story.
"It was not possible, if I had not this fantastic Aussie partner by my side, so thanks to Matty. We had a fantastic season last year and for me to win my first men's Grand Slam men's doubles Grand Slam here at the Asia-Pacific is special.
"Tennis is such a great teacher and Scott has been a great teacher who has been with me for over a decade. It was a tough, tough journey, this victory is as much yours as much it is mine," Bopanna said.
On a lighter note, he said, "I have my in-laws here. The last time they came I won my first mixed doubles. I don't know why they do not come more often."
Ebden, who had won men's doubles, too, praised the Indian.
"Age truly really is not even a number for this guy. He is a champion, he is a warrior, I am forever grateful to you and your amazing team, thank you mate!," said Ebden.
It was such hard-fought battle at the Rod Laver arena that the contest featured only one break of serve when Vavassori dropped his serve at love in game 11 of the second set. There were not many break points on offer either.
The second seeds had breakpoints in successive games in the beginning of the contest. However, the Italians saved both to stay on even terms.
In game two, off Bolelli's serve, Vavassori hit a volley at 30-30 but Bopanna hit a return long.
In game four, the Italians were again down a break point when at 30-30, a return from Bopanna jumped off the net chord to give the second seeds a free point. However, Vavassori served well to save that point as well.
Serving 4-5, and 30-all, Bolelli was under pressure again but pulled off a powerful cross court forehand which was away from Bopanna's reach and then served huge to make it 5-all.
Ebden's serve came under pressure in game 11 in which he faced a breakpoint, but, after playing deuce points, the Australian closed the game with an ace.
In the tie-breaker, Bolelli's serve was broken twice as the second seeds zoomed to a 5-0 lead without losing a point on their serve.
Vavassori too lost his serve to hand their rivals six set points. They converted the first, Ebden finding a forehand winner down the line.
The second set too was tight and there was no break of serve until vavassori lost his serve at love under pressure. Ebden came serving for the championship and they closed the match with Bopanna executing a fierce overhead smash on a return from his rivals.