Yuki Bhambri should be taken off the tennis court and locked up in a gym. Six months later, possibly, a player may emerge with the legs to carry the Davis Cup hopes of this nation. As of now he and those hopes are both shaky.
In a tedious encounter replete with a benumbing number of errors, Bhambri prevailed 3-6, 0-6, 6-2, 6-4, 6-2 over Daniel King-Turner of New Zealand. It was three hours and ten minutes of torturous tennis that barely got the crowd excited even though it did get vociferously behind the Indian towards the end.
In case you are wondering that Bhambri has to be fit to have lasted as long as he did, this correspondent hastens to add that he is indeed fit. Just that he is not fit enough to win five-setters against guys who are not themselves falling apart physically.
From being 3-2 ahead in the first set, Bhambri conceded eleven games on the trot before he managed to hold. The score read 1-1 in the third and by the time he managed his first break of the match, to lead 3-2 again, it was apparent that this was going to be a physical tug of war; a battle of attrition where nerve and legs were the main proponents and forehands and backhands were the extra artists. Bhambri played reasonably better to take the third set 6-2, and as if to reward him for the effort, the sun leapt out from behind the last bit of clouds that had formed over Chandigarh since last night.
There had been rain overnight and the day rose wet. Even at the scheduled time of start at 10 in the morning, there was sporadic drizzling. The match started an hour and 50 minutes late amidst pleasant breezy cool conditions. The crucial heat factor that has sapped the challenge of so many overseas contenders in Indian Davis Cup history was non-existent. The Kiwi obviously frolicked under the surprising conditions. But once it began to get humid, he began to lag. Once the sun came out, it became a matter of Bhambri keeping the ball in long enough.
To give him his due, Bhambri did hang in there. It is easy to throw in the towel, blame a bad day, the heat or he could have had his choice from the few score excuses routinely trotted out by many an Indian contender. Instead he kept plodding, kept his hydration routine going and refused to just fade away. For that he deserves full marks. He fails horribly, however, in the overall fitness department.
Time and again this has been the constant tedious lament of Indian tennis. Our players have the best hands in the world astride ostrich limbs that fail to bear the weight of their and a nation's expectations. One would presume it wouldn't be too tough to figure this bit out. After all, we have the example of Leander Paes who is still trotting around like a horse despite over two decades on the circuit. Bhambri and his advisers need to get focused more on his off-court routine if this kid is to ever to live up to the potential that his keen tennis mind suggests.