New Delhi: He was unwittingly dragged into the biggest controversy to rock Indian tennis this year, but ace doubles player Rohan Bopanna still considers the past 12 months as "one of the best" of his career.
"It's been a great year with all the ups and downs. It's definitely one of my best years as I defended my Paris Masters title, making the World Tour finals, playing the Olympics, winning a 500 event in Dubai and reaching two Master series finals. It's been one of my best years on Tour," Bopanna said.
Bopanna was involved in an ugly selection row with the AITA ahead of the London Olympics involving his then partner Mahesh Bhupathi and Leander Paes.
After the Olympics, Bopanna and Bhupathi were banned by the AITA for not abiding by the selector's decision although the court had stayed that decision later on.
Bopanna won the BNP Paribas Paris Masters and Dubai Duty Free tournament while ended runners-up in Barclays ATP World Tour Doubles Finals, ATP World Tour Masters 1000 Shanghai and ATP World Tour Masters 1000 Cincinnati partnering Bhupathi in a largely successful year which helped the 32-year-old Bangalorean swell his Doubles career titles tally to seven.
Bopanna, who would be seen in action at the Aircel Chennai Open with new partner Rajeev Ram, said the 18th edition of the tournament boasts of a formidable doubles line-up.
"It's a very formidable doubles line-up. Every year, it has been a tough field and 2013 also you have Bhupathi/Daniel Nestor and Paes/Roger Vaselin in action. Stanislas Wawrinka is also a formidable name who always play doubles with Frank Dancevic from France.
"There are couple of young teams also out there who have been playing the doubles for a while. It's going to be a tough tournament from the first round itself, so we can't slack at any time. I am looking forward to a good start to the season," he said.
Bopanna parted ways with his long-term mentor and doubles partner Bhupathi after the season-ending ATP Tour Finals last month and paired up with American Ram for the 2013 season.
And Bopanna now hopes to launch the newly-formed Indo-American duo's campaign at the Chennai Open on a winning note.
"It's our first tournament and it's just about getting used to a new partner and know each other well. I played with him once in 2008, it still takes time to get adjusted with somebody new. Hopefully we can start off with a bang (in Chennai)," he said.
"Every tournament we play, we want to win it. We have to reach a level where getting into the third round or reaching the quarters does not cut the ice. We are definitely looking to go all the way and finish right on the top of every tournament we play. That's the goal we will set in at the beginning of every tournament and hoping to lift the trophy at the end of the week," he added.
Bopanna said Chennai has always been a special hunting ground for him and he has a special liking for the southern city.
"Chennai has been a very special hunting ground for me. There have been a lot of memories. This is the place from where it all began. I won my first singles title at a national tournament. I won my futures title in singles here, then took India to the World Group beating Brazil in the Davis Cup," he said.
"It's a special place where I always love to play. People are really friendly out here and love to watch tennis. That really brings the best out of me," he signed off.