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Yuki takes a giant stride

Whoa! At 295 in the world, playing on your least favourite surface you don't run the world number 43 close enough to force three tiebreak sets. Sukhwant Basra reports.

sports Updated: Apr 09, 2012 00:42 IST
Sukhwant Basra
Sukhwant Basra
Hindustan Times

Whoa! At 295 in the world, playing on your least favourite surface you don't run the world number 43 close enough to force three tiebreak sets. Then, you have to be real audacious to imagine that you can beat the fellow. And you need to have self-belief of a rare kind to actually beat him. Yuki Bhambri didn't just manage that, in the process he also managed to get under Denis Istomin's skin enough to force the Uzbek to do more and subsequently make more mistakes. The 6-7 (1), 7-6 (3), 7-6 (3) scoreline reflects the potential of this new hope for Indian tennis. Bhambri played for pride and he showed the kind of heart that defines champions.

Quick learner

It's not that the 19-year-old suddenly got a power boost that supercharged his legs to last longer. Instead, what he got was the juicy pace that Istomin generated. While his opponent in the first match, Farrukh Dustov, hit a more loopy ball, Istomin likes to hit his deep and hard. This allowed the counter puncher in the Indian to stand forth and assert his own.

Once he got the pace to work with, Yuki was able to play on his own terms. Further, he had been extensively briefed by the support staff on the nuances of clay court tennis after his first match.

The net clearance was better even as he had figured how to alter the course of a point by being the first one to come up with the shot that changed the tempo and direction of play. It was heartening to see that this youngster had learnt so quickly from his mistakes. His is a keen tennis mind for sure. Further, playing minus the pressure of his first live match appearance for his country also made all the difference. He hit free and was cheeky enough to frustrate the Uzbek player with inside-out drop shots! The latter bit excites even more attention as that reflects he is not scared of the ranking or the reputation of the player on the other side of the net.

Of course, Istomin had turned up for his third straight match in three days as he looked to prepare all the better for the Monte Carlo clay event that he's headed for. He got far more than he bargained for as he now goes back to the Tour with his confidence dented just that wee bit.

One can just imagine the potential of Bhambri once he has the physical wherewithal to generate his own pace off the softer ball. As of now he struggles for sponsors with just Club Mahindra supporting him to some extent.

He has a bit of government money coming his way till the London Olympics but after that he will again be scrounging for funds as a player in the transitional phase needs in the vicinity of a crore a year if he is to tap the best tennis brains and trainers out there.

The national federation has done little in this regard and Bhambri's dream will soar or be gutted depending upon the kind of attention corporate India pays him.

First Published: Apr 09, 2012 00:24 IST