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Boys to men, Bhambri embarks on a journey

sports Updated: Jan 11, 2010 00:44 IST
Deepti Patwardhan
Deepti Patwardhan
Hindustan Times
Yuki Bhambri

Last year, Yuki Bhambri won the Australian Open boys’ singles title and scaled to No.1 in the junior ranking. Now begins the hard work.

The 17-year-old Delhi lad will play a full season as a pro, may be except the junior Grand Slams, as he looks to graduate from the boys’ to the men’s circuit.

“It’s a completely different level,” Marin Cilic, who won the 2005 junior French Open, said on the sidelines of the Chennai Open. The tall Croat has made a smooth progress since his debut on the pro circuit, jumping from world number 615 to 14 in just five years.

“The players on the ATP play a very physical sport. They don’t show mercy. You have to adjust more with their pace and power. Once you have a few wins under your belt and have the confidence to match up to them physically, the mental strength automatically follows.”

In his rare appearances on pro tours, Bhambri has already shown promise. He already has five Futures titles under his belt, won on his Davis Cup debut for India (beat South Africa’s Izak van der Merwe in the fifth singles rubber) and reached the final qualifying round of the Chennai Open by beating world No.120 Ilya Marchenko.

Bhambri’s lanky frame is often deceptive, but the fearless spirit is apparent. “His attitude on court is his biggest strength,” says Vece Paes, the doctor of the Indian Davis Cup team. Vece Paes charted son Leander’s path to tennis glory. “Maybe, Yuki needs to bulk up a little. But he is still too young, you will start seeing the results once he is 23,” he adds.

But for Janko Tipsarevic, the 2001 junior Australian champion, there are “no set rules” to this transition. After his semifinal loss to Cilic, four years his junior, Tipsarevic said, “I took a long time to reach where I am. Even when you are losing, you have to keep going. Some people do well immediately, while you have seen players like Rainer Schuetteler peaked when they were 25-26. So it’s really a very individual thing.”