Waiting for a break

Junior World No. 1 Yuki Bhambri, who is waiting in the wings to play for India in the Davis Cup, defeated Rohan Gajjar 6-2, 7-6 to win the first tournament.-S. SUBRAMANIUM

Yuki Bhambri’s decision to play in the Futures tournaments at home instead of competing in the junior Wimbledon was a wise one. He not only won the first event, but also picked up 25 invaluable ATP points. By Kamesh Srinivasan.

Somdev Devvarman may have sent ominous signals about the state of Indian men’s tennis, but it wasn’t all that bad for the game in the country in recent weeks. Ranked No. 135 in singles on the ATP circuit, India’s No. 1 player Somdev has been struggling to win two matches on the trot for the last many weeks. In fact, he accomplished the task only in the French Open qualifying event, but then, in the end, he shocked himself by losing tamely in the final qualifying round in which he managed to win only one game.

While Somdev, the hero of the last Davis Cup tie against Chinese Taipei — he won both his singles, including the one against Yen-Hsun Lu rather handily — has resolved to make the rest of the season a memorable one, especially during the hard court season in the US, the rest of the Indian players have also started showing encouraging signs.

Actually, there is more to Indian men’s tennis than the sagging fortunes of Somdev. Of course, we have junior World No. Yuki Bhambri waiting in the wings to don the National colours and play in the Davis Cup. Yuki, who celebrated his 17th birthday by winning his third Futures title, showed that he meant business in the men’s circuit — he would not be distracted by the junior Wimbledon event.

It was indeed a sensible move by Yuki and his family to make the most of the two Futures tournaments at home rather than try to add a second junior Grand Slam singles title by playing at Wimbledon. The Australian Open junior champion had sprained his ankle in a tournament in Kuwait and was forced to pull out of the French Open junior event. After recovering from the injury, Yuki opted to train at the Nick Bollettieri Centre in Florida for two weeks. He then decided to play more matches at home in the heat and humidity of Delhi rather than compete in Wimbledon.

Yuki was rewarded for his decision with a title in the first of the two Futures where he beat Rohan Gajjar in the final. The victory was worth 25 ATP points and the youngster was quite delighted.

Breathing down Yuki’s neck was Vishnu Vardhan. The strong lad from Hyderabad had done everything in the semifinals against Yuki to take a 4-3 lead in the tie-break of the third and final set. It was a platform to serve decisive blows at the brightest young talent in the country. However, Vishnu was unnerved by the occasion. Known for his strong serves, he quite shockingly delivered two double-faults to lose ground.

Yuki did not let go the chance as he unleashed two big serves to wind up the proceedings. It was as dramatic as it could get. However, Vishnu showed that Yuki was vulnerable indeed. So it came as no surprise in the second week when a tired Yuki lost in three sets to the fighting Divij Sharan. It was his first defeat in 18 matches at home in the international circuit. It was great till it lasted. Divij had learnt his lessons from the previous meeting against Yuki and made it a point to play within his limitations.

Vishnu Vardhan... showing promise.-SANDEEP SAXENA

With Yuki out of the way, it was a great opportunity for the likes of Divij Sharan, Rohan Gajjar and Vishnu Vardhan to win the title.

Vishnu survived two match-points by firing strong serves to beat Purav Raja in the deciding set of the quarterfinals. He then pipped Divij Sharan in the rain-affected semifinals after losing the first set. And in the final, Vishnu outplayed Rohan Gajjar, who was suffering from a bout of food poisoning, to claim his maiden title in his second final.

Vishnu, 22, coached by C. V. Nagaraj, had worked diligently on his game. He worked hard under trainer Abhimanyu Singh to be in good shape for both his singles and doubles matches every day for two successive weeks.

“Every evening I was dead, and every morning I woke up feeling fresh and strong. I owe it to Abhimanyu. He has been with the Commonwealth Games programme and has helped all of us greatly,” said Vishnu.

Vishnu had gained from his experience at the Nick Bollettieri Centre and was beginning to believe in his game. More than anything, he stopped worrying about the results. He kept it simple — he played the game to the best of his ability and did not bother about anything else. So, it was just a matter of getting his first serves in, volleying clean, moving well and hitting the ball hard and intelligently.

“If I do the basics correctly, I would win the points, games and matches. I was quite relaxed. I was able to play my best tennis irrespective of the flow of the match,” said Vishnu.

It is a good augury for Indian tennis. India needs some good singles players, especially since Rohan Bopanna is injured and looks a doubtful starter for the Davis Cup World Group play-off against South Africa in September.

There is still a lot of time, and both Yuki and Vishnu have planned to train well and compete in the Challenger circuits in Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and possibly Brazil to get to the next level.


Singles final: Vishnu Vardhan bt Rohan Gajjar 6-4, 6-2; Semifinals: Rohan Gajjar bt Kento Takeuchi (Japan) 6-4, 4-6, 7-6 (5); Vishnu Vardhan bt Divij Sharan 4-6, 6-3, 6-1.

Doubles final: Divij Sharan and Vishnu Vardhan bt Vivek Shokeen and Ashutosh Singh 6-3, 6-4.


Singles final: Yuki Bhambri bt Rohan Gajjar 6-2, 7-6 (6); Semifinals: Rohan Gajjar bt Ashutosh Singh 6-3, 7-5; Yuki Bhambri bt Vishnu Vardhan 6-3, 4-6, 7-6 (4).

Doubles final: Divij Sharan and Vishnu Vardhan bt Rohan Gajjar and Purav Raja 6-1, 7-5.