Yuki Rises to the Challenge
By Rohan Sharma | ENS | Published: 09th February 2014 01:43 AM |
With an adoring, yet sparse crowd cheering him on at every point in the final of the PL Reddy Memorial ATP Challenger tennis tournament, Yuki Bhambri must have thought he couldn’t afford to lose this one. He needed to walk the line between aggression and defence steadily to get the job done. The problem was that it was proving to be quite a chore!
Facing Russia’s Alexander Kudryavtsev, the youngster was being bullied from the back of the court and was unable to play damaging groundstrokes consistently to combat his opponent’s power. The fact that his foe also had a penetrating serve didn’t seem to help matters. Being outplayed and heading for a certain defeat, Yuki needed to summon the magician in him and pull a rabbit out of the proverbial hat. The 21-year-old did just that, winning 4-6, 6-3, 7-5 to bag his third Challenger title and break into the top 150 for the first time on Saturday.
The players set the temperatures soaring by getting a bit hot under the collar as the stakes were pretty high. Contesting in his sixth Challenger final, Kudryavtsev was yet to find any success in title clashes at this level while Yuki had never won an event of this significance on Indian soil before.
The Russian tried to play first-strike tennis but the Delhiite adopted a defensive model for the day, being more patient than usual. “I was really down and out but got lucky. I had to be patient because his big game really made it difficult for me to take charge of the rallies. I went out with a clear game plan and stuck to it even though it didn’t bring me too much success. However, this being a final, I knew some chances would come my way,” Yuki said.
He was spot on as Kudryavtsev kept contriving to lose the plot at important moments. He served for the match at 5-3 in the decider, only to lose four games in a row, handing the match to Yuki with a double fault.
Watching from the sidelines, tennis icons Anand and Vijay Amritraj were thrilled with the end result. “Yuki was very lucky to pull this off, but one has to give him credit for hanging in there. Kudryavtsev has massive firepower and could be a top 50 player, but mentally, he’s a bit fragile,” Davis Cup skipper Anand opined.
Vijay was pleased to see an Indian doing so well and predicted great things for the youngster. “It was a terrific win for Yuki. These kind of matches are so good for his confidence. He belongs in the top 100. Yuki playing against Somdev is good for Indian tennis because it helps them improve. Their success also allows us to have a strong Davis Cup team,” he explained.
The Indian made it a grand double by clinching the doubles title too, partnering New Zealand’s Michael Venus. The duo upstaged local boy N Sriram Balaji and Slovenia’s Blaz Rola 6-4, 7-6 (7/3) in the summit clash. “It’s wonderful to get two titles in one day. It’s a big bonus,” added a content Yuki.
Results (both finals): Singles: Y Bhambri bt A Kudryavtsev 4-6, 6-3, 7-5. Doubles: Y Bhambri/M Venus bt NS Balaji/B Rola 6-4, 7-6 (7/3).
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