Former Asian Games gold medalist Somdev Devvarman has said Rohan Bopanna was unfortunate not to get Arjuna Award in the past and that he is likely to get the government recognition this year.
Weeks after he had won his maiden Grand Slam title — the French Open mixed doubles title along with Gabriela Dabrowski of Canada, Bopanna took to social media to hit out at the All India Tennis Federation (AITA) over yet another Arjuna Award snub.
The AITA had announced in June 2017 they would be nominating Bopanna along with 2014 Asian Games gold medal winner Saketh Myneni for the prestigious award given by the Government of India in recognition of outstanding achievement in sport.
However, failure to send his nomination on time meant the tennis player's name did not feature on the winners list.
An infuriated Bopanna called out the "lack of professionalism and efficiency" by the AITA even as a top official of the governing body cited the lack of Asian Games medal as a reason for the seasoned campaigner not winning the award.
Despite having a Grand Slam title which equates to a World Championship medal as per the points system, Bopanna has fulfilled the criteria which, according to the said official, he had failed to achieve last year.
Bopanna went on to win the the men's doubles gold along with Divij Sharan at the Asian Games 2018 last week. The veteran is likely to win the elusive award this year as the AITA has already nominated his name.
"First of all, it's really unfair that he hasn't got an Arjuna Award so far. Rohan Bopanna really deserved it in the past and he didn't get it. I am not saying the others who got didn't deserve it," Devvarman told International Business Times, India.
"But with this win, he seems to have secured it. It's good for him. Don't forget he has won Masters [1000 titles] and Grand Slams. The guy has been there for the country always ,given his 100%. What else can you ask from a player?
"Rohan and Divij [Sharan] were obviously the top seeds but it was important for them to live up to that billing."
'Leader Bopanna was a big positive for the Indian contingent'
Devvarman, who was part of the Sony Pictures Networks' expert panel during the Asian Games, also heaped praise on Bopanna, pointing out how the 38-year-old mentored the younger members of the tennis contingent.
In the absence of Leander Paes, who controversially pulled out days ahead of the Games over lack of specialist doubles partner, Bopanna was the senior-most member of the contingent, which had quite a few youngsters in Prajnesh Gunneswaran, Ankita Raina and Ramkumar Ramanathan among others.
Bopanna, who flew to New York for US Open action a day after the men's doubles final in Jakarta, also played mixed doubles with Ankita Raina, who went on to clinch a bronze in the women's singles category at the Games.
"Bops [Bopanna] had been the leader of the team, without a doubt. The likes of Ramkumar , Sumit [Nagal], and Prajnesh have looked up to this guy. Personally, he has been helping Ram over the last two years," Devvarman said.
"Bops is someone who is respected by everyone in the team. He is someone, whom everyone can rely on for honest good advice. He leads by example, he gives his 100% always.
"Having a leader like Rohan proved to be a big positive for the Indian contingent. The lead-up was exactly pretty. It was far from ideal but the team did really well.
"Just having him as the senior member of the team put them in a really good space."
Young tennis players should learn from Divij: Devvarman
Devvarman also labelled Divij as one of the hardest working players in the Indian circuit and credited the southpaw's work ethics for his success in the recent past.
The 32-year-old broke into the top 50 last year and has been consistent on the tour ever since. With the Asiad gold coming his way, the world 38 is expected to only climb the ATP ladder in the coming months.
"Divij is one of the hardest working players in the Indian circuit. There is a running joke that he always carries his home roller on tours. He spends a lot of time on his fitness," Devvarman added.
"Hard work pays off — that's exactly the case with Divij. He is 38 in the world right now and that's a phenomenal achievement. He did it the hard way. He put his head down and worked hard to get where he is.
"It's really important for other tennis players from the country to understand that. Hardwork is the most important thing if one needs to be successful."