Indian tennis star Rohan Bopanna and his Australian partner Matthew Ebden lost in the final of the men’s doubles event at the US Open on Friday night.
The duo won the opening set before defending champions American Rajeev Ram and Britain’s Joe Salisbury made a strong comeback to win their third consecutive US Open crown 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 in a match that lasted two hours and one minute.
This was the first time since the 2010 US Open that Bopanna had reached the men’s doubles final at a Grand Slam. On that occasion, he and partner Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi of Pakistan lost to the Bryan Brothers, Mike and Bob, 6-7, 6-7.
Since then Bopanna has gone on to win the French Open mixed doubles title in 2017. Earlier this year, he partnered Sania Mirza to the Australian Open mixed doubles final as well.
On Friday, Bopanna-Ebden, the pairing having only been together since the beginning of the season, started strongly, breaking Ram’s serve in the opening game of the match.
Later in the seventh game of the first set, with Salisbury serving at 2-4, Bopanna and Ebden once again found the break before the Australian comfortably served out the set.
In the second set, Ram and Salisbury shook off the nerves from the first set and came out stronger. They eventually found the break off Bopanna’s serve in the sixth game to go 4-2 up. Ram later served out the set 6-3 to take the match into the decider.
Bopanna started off with a shaky service game in the third set, but managed to comeback from 0-40 down to win the opening game.
The Indo-Australian pair then had a good chance to take the break off Salisbury’s serve in the fourth game. But the defending champions managed to save two break points in a game that lasted eight minutes to hold serve.
Immediately after, Bopanna’s serve was broken in the fifth game of the third set, for a second time in the match.
In the seventh game though, in a moment of sportsmanship, Bopanna conceded a point. It seemed that Ebden had played a forehand winner into an open court. However, the 43-year-old Indian informed the umpire that Ebden’s shot had brushed his arm.
Conceding the point meant that the sixth seeded team was trailing 0-30 in the game, with Ebden serving, but they managed to hold on to make it 3-4.
Ram and Bopanna served out their respective games at love to give Salisbury – who had been the weaker server among the four on the night – a chance to serve for the match.
Eventually an Ebden forehand into the net at 40-30 was all that was needed for the defending champions to become the first men’s doubles team since Maurice McLoughlin and Tom Bundy in 1912 to 1914 to win three back-to-back US Open titles.
Bopanna, at 43 years and six months, had already set a record of becoming the oldest player to reach a men’s doubles Grand Slam final in the Open Era. But his wait for a first men’s doubles title continues.