Yuki Bhambri has been the man on the verge for quite a while now. Or at least it seems that way. While Bhambri is only 23, he first created a national impression in 2009 when he won the junior boys Australian Open title. That he was also the first junior to be ranked world number one after Leander Paes made him the one to keep an eye out for.
But 2009, given what public memory is, was a long time ago. Once Bhambri made it to the men’s circuit, he seemed to lose his way in the transition whirlwind as happens with most Indian juniors. With hardly any financial support from the federation, the years it takes to graduate from a junior’s game and adjust to the slug of the big boys sees most of our promise whittled away. One had begun to fear that Bhambri may also go the same way.
"The key for me has been staying injury free. The last seven months have seen me stay healthy and therefore able to build on my game and confidence. It’s no longer stop and start," said the hero of India’s recent Davis Cup win against New Zealand.
Bhambri wrapped up both his singles in straight sets and proved to be the lynchpin of a comeback that saw our team triumph after being 1-2 down going into the third day. With an enhanced focus on off-court training, Bhambri is now playing stronger and, more importantly, feeling stronger. "You can be extremely skilful but if you can’t reach the ball, it doesn’t matter, does it? I now feel I have found the right balance of how much to work in the gym and on court."
It requires grit to keep trudging with the expenses piling on. It requires courage to battle the injuries and brave the constant struggle of rehabilitation. Bhambri appears to have figured it out. "I have a trainer travelling with me many times and the constant attention to fitness helps. We are all also more careful about nutrition and the emphasis is always on eating healthy and staying healthy."
The Indian Davis Cup team is now emerging out of the shadow left in the wake of the absence of Leander Paes. That man has been a formidable force when playing for the flag and even when he started playing only doubles he stayed the main man in the team given his experience.
Paes had opted out of this tie and in his wake Rohan Bopanna donned the mantle of the senior with vision. "Rohan was a massive help. He gave precise instructions from the sidelines. Sometimes it’s easier to spot things from outside as compared to when you are in the thick of things. Rohan did that superbly and gave crucial inputs."
The world number 151 has only his employer ONGC for support and struggles for the necessary funds to keep going. And in his own words he still has "a long way to go". But the man from Delhi seems to be finally getting it right. "The crucial change now is that he is pushing himself. He has become self-aware and motivated. His work ethic has also improved. If he stays injury free, the best is yet to come," says long-time coach and mentor Aditya Sachdeva.