A decade ago, when he picked a racquet for the first time at the Siri Fort Sports Complex, little did he know one day he would be standing in the Rod Laver Arena, holding aloft the junior boys crown at the Australian Open.
Yuki Bhambri, 16, didn’t know he would become the first Indian to win at Melbourne Park and the fourth to bag the boys’ Grand Slam title. Incredible it may seem, but he didn’t know how long a post-match ceremony takes to get over after a final. Bhambri missed his flight.
“The post-match interviews and dope-tests held us back. It was only after we checked out from the hotel did we realise we had missed the flight,” chuckled Yuki while talking to Hindustan Times from Melbourne. “But no complaints. I have the trophy.”
With two elder sisters already playing tennis, it did not take Yuki too long to join the academy run by the same coach — Aditya Sachdeva. “I have been working with him for many years now. We have hit the nail today,” said the coach who accompanied his ward to the tournament.
With a cool head, like his name (Yuki means snow-flake in Japanese), he has gone up the ranks to reach the pinnacle of junior tennis. His mother Indu thinks her son is as special as his name.
“When he plays, he is extremely cool. I am glad he has lived up to his name,” she adds.
With the victory still to sink in, Yuki said his dream had finally come true after beating Germany's Alexandros-Ferdinandos Georgoudas 6-3, 6-1 in just 57 minutes. "After losing in the semis last year, I was confident of doing better. As a player it's easier to dream of winning a Grand Slam but to actually win on court on such a big stage is difficult yet very special."
"The trophy still lies in my kit bag. The feeling of being a champion has not sunk in yet."
The Delhi boy from Gulmohar Park, who idolises Rafael Nadal, now joins an elite list of junior champions that includes Andy Roddick, Marcos Baghdatis and Gael Monfils. "It feels great to be amongst such big names of the game," said the Class X student of Delhi Public School, RK Puram.