Australian Open: Yuki wins junior title; narrow miss for Bhupathi-Knowles


Melbourne : While India celebrated the new tennis sensation Yuki Bhambri winning his first junior Grand Slam title, its senior pro Mahesh Bhupathi narrowly failed to add to his three majors as he and Mark Knowles of Bahamas lost the final to American twins Bob and Mike Bryan at the Australian Open here Saturday.

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Top-seed Yuki outclassed German Alexandros-Ferdinandos Georgoudas 6-3, 6-1 to join a select band of three great Indian tennis icons — Ramanathan Krishnan and his son Ramesh and Leander Paes — to win the singles title at a Grand Slam event. More importantly, the 16-year-old Delhi youngster is the first Indian to win at Melbourne Park.

Expectations of Indian fans were high as Bhupathi aimed for a career Grand Slam, having won titles at the hallowed French, Wimbledon and US Open. But Bhupathi and Knowles went down 6-2, 5-7, 0-6.

Bhupathi and Knowles looked well on course to add the Australian Open to the list when he and his Bahamas partner Mark Knowles breezed through the first set against the American twins Mike and Bob Bryan and were well in control till the tenth game of the second.

Once the Bryans managed to pull through the second set, the Indo-Bahamian pair’s resistance collapsed and they were blanked in the third set.

But the day certainly belonged to Yuki who scaled new heights in his fledgling career stamping his authority in packing off Georgoudas in less than an hour, 57 minutes to be precise.

“Winning the title is a big thing for me. But I am aware that it is a small step to bigger things in life,” Yuki said.

“I was confident that I could win. I had worked really hard. I changed my actions, I worked on my fitness and brought more power to my shots. It was a hard work of three-four months which paid off today.”

It took 18 years for an Indian to win a junior Grand Slam title. It all started with the senior Krishnan who won at Wimbledon in 1954, the first Asian player to achieve the feat. His son Ramesh bettered him by winning the French Open and Wimbledon in 1979.

Paes is the only Indian to win a junior Grand Slam title in different years, his first at Wimbledon in 1990 and then the US Open in 1991 as a 17-year-old.

Like Paes, Yuki has won his first Grand Slam at 16 and joins an illustrious list of former Australian Open junior champions like Andy Roddick, Marcos Baghdatis and Gael Monfils, all accomplished players on the circuit now.

“I was a little nervous in the beginning, but as the match progressed I was calm and played my shots. I cut down on the errors against Georgoudas and made him play more balls,” said Yuki, who trains at the famous Nick Bollettieri Academy.

Yuki now wants to carry forward his success into the senior ranks.

“I am now gearing up to play in the men’s circuit,” said Yuki who is planning to play in a couple of ITF tournaments in Australia.

Yuki had been in imperial form right through the tournament and raised his game by a notch or two in the final.

Georgoudas conceded after the match that Yuki was too good and complimented him on a resounding victory.

“It is a very nice tournament here; well done Yuki, and I hope to play here in the future,” Georgoudas said.