BENGALURU: At the end of Mahesh Bhupathi’s career and at the dusk of Leander Paes’, India’s men’s tennis has struggled to find the next star. India hoped to see a singles specialist in Somdev Devvarman, but dogged by injuries, he pulled curtains on his career.
There are Ramkumar Ramanathan, Saketh Myneni and Yuki Bhambri now, rekindling hopes among the country’s tennis fans. However, in Bhambri, India sees the brightest prospect in singles, which has never been its forte despite the sport’s only Olympic medal coming from it.
Bhambri has stood out impressively in recent years. His triumph in the Australian Open Boy’s singles in 2009 was a glimpse of things to come. But repeated injuries forced him to manage his tour differently. “From the 11 months we spend on the Tour every year, I’d like to play two to three weeks at a time and then take a break. But it will obviously depend on the tournament and how far I am able to progress in them. That’s the plan for now,” he said.
After missing the Davis Cup Asia/Oceania Zone Group I tie against Uzbekistan in April, he has managed to maintain consistency, with his biggest result coming against the World No 22 Gael Monfils, whom he beat 6-3, 4-6, 7-5 in the Citi Open. He then downed Argentine Guido Pella before losing to Kevin Anderson in the quarterfinals.
“It was important to not be satisfied. I wanted to go deeper and I wanted to keep doing well. It was one of the biggest wins of my career and it was very easy for me to be happy with that, but I wasn’t. I had a great chance with Anderson but I lost the third set,” he said.
Since then, he has registered several quarterfinal and semifinal finishes to climb up the rankings to the present 122, India’s best in singles. The 25-year-old then clinched his first title of the year, the KPIT-MSLTA Challenger event in Pune last week.
At the $100,000 Bengaluru Open, he has set a modest target. “It took me 25 weeks and 20 tournaments to win a title this year. It’s very difficult to emulate the winning run. It’s a tough event so you cannot focus beyond the first round and I am just focusing on the first match for now,” said Bhambri, who faces N Sriram Balaji on Tuesday. “I remain focused on making it back to the top 100 again and make it to the main draw of some of the Slams — Australian Open at least.”