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Yuki Bhambri: The wait for success continues

Yuki Bhambri: The wait for success continues

Anjali Banerjee

Published: 23 Feb 2018 1:23 AM GMT

Touching World no. 101 by reaching the Finals of the Inaugural Chennai Challenger and slipping down Four places to 105 losing in the final Qualifying round of the ATP 500 Dubai Duty-Free Tennis Championships yesterday, Yuki Bhambri and his forage for ATP World Tour success continues.

A sizzling straight set win in the First qualifying round in Dubai over Ivan Dodig was sqaundered when the Indian faltered in the next with a poor 1-6 1-6 scoreline that sealed the fate of Bhambri who was sent packing by Germany's Yannick Maden.

The loss dashed the dreams of Yuki whose search for that elusive ATP Glory persists. Fear of slipping down the rankings is another worry that shall keep the Indian grappled unless he makes the most of every opportunity with finesse.

It is a grim scenario for Indian Tennis when it comes to Singles. Not having even one player in the Top 100 at present is indeed worrisome for a country replete with sporting talent.

Without a hint of doubt, India's top-ranked Bhambri is a portrait of sheer resilience in the face of an injury ravaged career that has often thwarted his journey towards the top.

But failing to convert the golden chances that he had from the start of this season is what is a real dampener.

Despite a career high ranking of No 88 in November 2015, it was heartbreaking to see the India No. 1 not being able to capitalize on the form given injuries which nibbled at a major chunk of his well-being.

Lumbering from 474th at the start of the last season and now to 105 is a testimony to the fact that the 25-year-old is bent on wading ahead. The question is are the efforts enough?

However, on the professional circuit, a decade on tour is a massive amount of time and since turning pro, ten years ago in 2008, Bhambri is yet to win a single title on the ATP world tour, both in singles as well as doubles. With time gushing by like a swift river, it is important for Bhambri to make hay while the sun shines.

Unveiling the season with a pre-quarter final finish at the Tata Open Maharashtra in Pune, Bhambri made up for the sluggish start by making it to the main draw at the Australian Open 2018 in January.

But the hopes faced a beating when Bhambri succumbed to the very experienced Marcos Baghdatis 6-7 4-6 3-6 in straight sets. The loss was a mirror to the India no.1 who conceded the fine chance of making it ahead at the Slam stage. Mounting unforced errors and a poor second serve were instrumental in this very painful loss.

On This very same stage, Yuki had made history by lifting the Junior Boy's Singles title in 2009. He then became the first Indian singles winner of the junior Australian Open and the fourth Indian in history to capture a junior singles grand slam title.

But eversince then, The Melbourne outing has been a bitter pill to gulp. The year 2015 saw Bhambri who was then ranked 317th take on British No. 1 Andy Murray in the Opening round. Biting the dust with a straight sets defeat, the Indian knew he had work on his hands in the coming years if he wanted to establish himself on the World stage.

In 2016, Bhambri stumbled at the first round hurdle in the Australian Open again. This time the then seeded 6th Tomas Berdych forced the Indian into submission with his impressive performance. A straight sets defeat 5-7 1-6 2-6 for the second time on the same Melbourne blue turf was a jarring warning for Bhambri.

Subdued in a painful elbow injury and forced to stay away from action most of the year in 2016, Bhambri has had his shares of turmoils. But now that he is having the chances, it will be very fateful if Yuki falters to convert the golden opportunities that have been knocking on him.

Not denying, after the Opening round exit in Melbourne this year, Bhambri went on to become the first ever Indian to reach the Finals of The Inaugural Chennai ATP Challenger thereafter on home soil. The semi-final win catapulted the Indian close to 100 at 101 in the ATP rankings.

Albeit,the loss at the hands of the top seed Jordan Thompson in three sets was the one that again kept the Indian from a chance to squeeze into the top 100. Giving into pressure and forced into errors is what is like a noose for the Indian who somehow fails to get out of the strangle when it matters the most.

A string of losses mar the Indian tennis star's hopes of clinching a piece of ATP World tour glory every now and then.

Although tennis fans across the country applaud the heroics of the India No.1, the burning question that still lingers is will the Junior Australian Open Champ ever go the distance on the pathway to winning an ATP World Tour title or Grand Slam glory ?

If we look back in time, we have some telling examples of former and present Indian tennis stars who have ushered into fame with their never say die attitude and all who once began their elusive journey with a Junior Grand Slam Title, exactly like Yuki Bhambri has. Barring injuries for the 105th ranked Bhambri, there is little reason why the lacuna cannot be filled otherwise.

A peep into History

Indian Tennis and its corridors of the past have some fascinating stories that have blazed a trail from their Junior Grand Slam victories. If they say History repeats itself, then most certainly we can hope for Yuki Bhambri to make a similar impact or even clinch a Grand Slam title soon.

Ramanathan Krishnan:

A prominent name in the 1950s and 1960s Ramanathan Krishnan was one of the leading tennis players of that era. Taking the Indian tennis by storm in 1954, he became the first Asian player to win the boys' singles title at Wimbledon beating Ashley Cooper in the final.

Twice a semi-finalist at the Wimbledon Championships in 1960 and 1961, the Chennai-born Ramanathan was making huge strides on the ATP World tennis circuit.

Having a total of 55 singles career ATP titles to his name, Ramanathan Krishnan also boasts of a career high ranking of World No. 6 which he touched in 1961. He also was the member of the 1966 Indian team which reached the final of the Davis Cup but eventually lost to Australia.

Recipient of the Arjuna Award, The Padma Shri and the Padma Bhushan, Krishnan etched his name in the list of the stalwarts of the game.

Ramesh Krishnan:

Born in Chennai, son of The very notable Ramanathan Krishnan, Ramesh Krishnan has Two Junior Grand Slam Titles to his credit. Just like his father, Ramesh Krishnan won the Wimbledon title in 1979. That same year, Krishnan also clinched the Junior French Open boy's singles title.

During the course of his career, Ramesh Krishnan won eight singles titles and one Doubles titles. He reached the Australian Open Third round as many as Five times in his career and Two quarter final appearances at the Wimbledon and the U.S.Open

Krishnan was also the part of the Indian Team that reached the Finals of the Davis Cup in 1987. He also defeated the then World No. 1, Mats Wilander at the Australian Open in 1989 and India's Davis Cup captain in 2007.

Leander Paes

The 44 year-old veteran is one of a living legend in the sport of tennis. From winning the Junior Titles at both Wimbledon and the U.S.Open, Paes has added numerous victories to his resume and continues to do so even today.

With a staggering eight doubles and ten mixed doubles Grand Slam titles, Leander and his name shines among the biggest in the sport.

In the Men's singles, Paes has reached the second round of the Australian Open, French Open and the Wimbledon and also made it to the Third round of the U.S.Open.

At the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, Paes defeated Fernando Meligeni to secure a Bronze Medal and became the first Indian to win an individual medal since KD Jadhav who won a bronze almost more than four decades ago.

The year 2003 was a dramatic one for Leander where he won two Mixed doubles Grand Slam titles with Martina Navratilova at the Australian Open and the Wimbledon. Just after the Wimbledon, Paes was diagonised with Neurosysticercocis, a parasitic brain infection. Missing out on the U.S.Open that year, Leander took time to recuperate and made sure he bounced back.

It is very heartening to see athletes recover from grave injuries and make it to the top. Afterall, fighting adversities and coming back is what makes champions.

So what does Bhambri have in common with all these other than a Junior Slam championship Title? Its indeed high time that the Indian goes ahead and sieze some success on the ATP World Tour. It will be heartening if Yuki derives inspiration from all these stars and replicate a few of their feats.

Grigor Dimitrov who won the Junior Boy's Grand Slam at both the Wimbledon and the USOpen in 2008 has come a long way capitalizing on that supreme beginning. Adding eight singles career titles to his profile, the 6 ft 3 inches Bulgarian is a mighty picture on the ATP World Tour.

The 2017 Nitto ATP Finals champ and the 2017 Australian Open semi-finalist, Grigor has also made the semi finals of the Wimbledon in 2014 and reached the Fourth round of the USOpen in 2014 and 2016.

Alexander Zverev the German World No. 5 who won the Junior Boy's Grand Slam Title at the Australian Open in 2014 has rose steadily on the ATP ladder. Winning Six career titles, Zverev has made it to the Third rounds of both the Australian Open and the French Open.

He has also reached the Fourth Round of the prestigious Wimbledon Championships in 2017 and the second round of the USOpen both in 2016 and 2017. Zverev also has the honour of sending Team Germany into the Qf of the Davis Cup this year.

Nick Krygios The 22-year-old mercurial Australian who currently is perched on the World no 15 won the Junior Australian Open championships in 2013. With four career singles titles, Krygios too has had his share of agaonising injuries that have derailed him many a times.

Suffering the brunt of various allegations and making the headlines for all the wrong stuff, Krygios is now well on his path for further glory.

Reaching the Quarter-finals of the Australian Open and the Wimbledon in 2015 and 2014 respectively, the Aussie has been a regular appearance on the Slam scene. Making a third round at the French Open in 2015 and 2016 and the same at the USOpen in 2014 and 2016, Nick Krygios madkes sure he steadily is getting up the ladder.

Not to forget the very boisterous Frenchman, Gael Monfils who won the Junior Grand Slam Ttitles at the Australian Open, The French Open and The Wimbledon all in one year in 2004 has gone ahead to clinch Seven career Singles Titles. Monfils has reached the Semi-finals of the French Open and The USOpen in 2008 and 2016 respectively.

A quarter-final run at the 2016 Australian Open and making the third round at Wimbledon on six occasions has been the highlights of the Frenchman's career.

With such greatness on the ATP World Tour to savour from all these Junior Grand Slam champs, it is more than natural that we tennis fans want to see our Indian star do the feat on the Big Stage.

Although, Yuki is on a comeback trail and can still make a dramatic inscription on the walls of the ATP World scene, the truth however remains that time is running out for the 25-year-old. With his recent performances it is more than clear that The Junior Slam Champ loses steam in the dying moments of an encounter only to concede a hard fought battle.

With Expectations running high and the time just right, fans wonder if this star will have the resources to survive the grind on the ATP World Stage.

Bhambri has the sun shining upon him. The need of the hour is to grab the chances and like an alchemist turn it into gold lest it will be too late.

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