Bhambri keen to step it up.
From one of the top juniors in the world to 174 on the ATP charts currently, it hasn’t been a smooth ride for India’s Yuki Bhambri. The lanky youngster has taken his time to toughen up for the demands of the pro circuit. But the year has started well with a quarterfinal appearance at the Chennai Open and a third round in doubles at the Australian Open.
The 2009 Boys’ Australian Open champion, now 21, discusses his apprehensions and ambitions:
Can you talk about the responsibility that comes with playing Davis Cup for India?
It is of course a great honour playing for your country. I have had a good run in the competition (8/1 win-loss record), but it is also because Somdev (Devvarman) is our No 1 player and that takes allows me to play freely. I know that even if I slip up he’ll be there to take care of it.
I’ve had two good wins (over the Chinese Taipei) this week, and that gives a lot of confidence going into the season ahead.
Your forehand has been working particularly well recently.
It is one of my biggest weapons, for sure. It is the shot I rely on the most to get me out of trouble or help me set up the point. I am going to find it very difficult to win the day it doesn’t work.
The world over youngsters are finding it difficult to break through. How has your journey from the junior Australian Open been?
It has been tough. The game has become so physical nowadays that players who are 18-19 years old, their bodies don’t hold up. The older players have the strength to sustain that level of play for a long time. Also, it’s difficult since we have to play on hard courts for most of the season; it will only lead to more injuries.
You have been a somewhat fragile physically…
Yeah, I have had my fair share of injuries. Had some trouble with my ankle earlier. But I am getting stronger. The focus this season will be to stay injury free.
I have also been putting an extra forty-five minutes to an hour on the court during practice recently, to make sure I have the endurance in longer matches.
Most of the Indian players currently on the circuit have played college tennis in the USA and that expertise has given them a solid fitness base. Is that they way you would have liked to go too?
They have built their fitness over the years. They are all about 26-27 years old, so they did not have that base when they were 21.
I am happy just concentrating on the game and playing tennis professionally. Which means I have to work on my fitness while playing on the circuit.
I am working on getting physically stronger; it might take six months or it might take a year, but I know I will get there eventually.
What do you think you need to do to push into that top-150 bracket?
I have to play consistently. The previous years, I have had good phases and then let my level drop. I have had a good one month again, but I need to keep making these quarterfinals and semifinals to stay in touch with that level of players.
As of now the target is to get into the top-80, top-70 in both the singles and doubles.
Historically, Indian players have been very good at serve and volley. But the new bunch of guys is changing that perception.
The game has changed so much. Players are growing up on hard courts and used to playing with the heavy balls. We have to keep changing with the times.
Most of the players now are strong from the baseline and hit the ball deep, they are not going to give you a lot of chances to attack. We can’t rely on serve and volley anymore.