Yuki Bhambri sees a big chance at the Australian Open

By Pragya Tiwari,IANS,

New Delhi : While Somdev Devvarman is fast emerging as a new Indian tennis star, Yuki Bhambri is seen as another one in the making.

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At 16, Yuki has the skills and the mental toughness to be a tactically sound player. Without these qualities he could not have won the prestigious Osaka Mayor Cup and then the highly rated Orange Bowl Tennis Championship to cap a phenomenal 2008.

The Delhi youngster, who first came into the limelight with his semi-final appearance in the junior section of the Australian Open last January, also became the World No. 2 to raise the expectations in the new year. He certainly does not lack the self-motivation and determination to do well.

After last year’s thrilling experience, Yuki has worked hard for this edition at Melbourne Park and hopes to claim his maiden junior Grand Slam title.

“I am looking forward to the event as I am familiar with the conditions at the National Tennis Centre now, so I feel I have a chance.”

“It will be tough though. Every player in top-50 is good and has the potential to beat anyone. But I will try and give my best in the (junior) Grand Slams. I am hoping to win one this year,” Yuki told IANS before leaving for Melbourne.

To draw a parallel, British tennis sensation Andy Murray won the US Open junior title when he was 17 and he was soon in the Davis Cup squad in 2004. In the next one year the Scot made the biggest jump by any player in the top 100 of the ATP rankings, shooting up a phenomenal 449 rungs to 65.

If Murray went to Sanchez-Casal Tennis Academy in Barcelona, Spain, when he was 15, Yuki, too, has been training at one of the best in the tennis business, Nick Bollettieri Centre, courtesy International Management Group (IMG), and says it has helped him improve his game.

“At Bollettieri, one gets to play different players. I hit against the top-100 guys including Ivo Karlovic and Kei Nishikori. You get the best of facilities and training as a player.”

But the similarity ends there. While Murray grabbed all the opportunities that came his way, the young Indian champion is struggling to find sponsors to fund his travelling expenses as he prepares for the junior Australian Open, beginning Jan 26. He realises he is at the most crucial phase of his career.

“My parents are worried as my schedule is getting more and more hectic. AITA (All India Tennis Association) helps me for the Grand Slams but that is it. I approached quite a few sponsors but no one is willing to come forward. I don’t understand why.”

Yuki has a punishing regimen during the off-season and says it has helped him a lot, particularly in terms of fitness. “You need to be fit if you have to play long-drawn-out matches of over three hours.”

“I have always been good from the baseline and I have worked on my serve and volley to tighten my game. My serve now has more punch and that helps in getting easy service points. If your serve is good, you can play without pressure.”

If Murray won the Rose Bowl when he was 12, Yuki can take pride for winning the Orange Bowl in Miami in the under-18 category and also for reaching the doubles final partnering Chase Buchanan.

“It was a fantastic year. I reached Australian Open semis, I did well on the men’s circuit in Chandigarh, Delhi, Malaysia. I won the Osaka Mayor and recorded my biggest victory in Orange Bowl. I performed beyond my expectations.

“In Orange bowl, I just wanted to play good tennis and compete with the best players in the world. Winning in the toughest tournaments in the world has given me immense confidence and put me among the best juniors in the world,” said Yuki who took to tennis inspired by his two elder sisters Ankita and Sanaa, both national champions.

The Orange Bowl crown gave him the wild card for the qualifying event of the Nasdaq Open in Miami in March. Asked how he feels at the prospect of playing in a field packed with top players, Yuki said: “I am really excited. I will get to play against the best. It will tell me where I stand.”

Despite all odds, Yuki is determined to rough it out and make a mark in tennis. He says he is keen on playing more on the men’s circuit this year. “I intend to play more in futures and challengers. I feel I can do well.”

Yuki knows that this is the year for bigger things for him and he is all keyed up.