'These were the best few weeks of my career,' says Bhambri

In a freewheeling chat, Yuki Bhambri talks about his remarkable run at the Indian Wells Open and Miami Open, the upcoming Davis Cup tie against China, and his equation with coach Stephen Koon.

Yuki Bhambri collected 102 ATP points during his exploits in the Indian Wells Open and Miami Open.   -  R. Ragu

Yuki Bhambri is a little disappointed to stop when he is playing his best tennis, and compelled to sit out of the Davis Cup tie against China, but is quite positive about the future, following his fine run in the ATP Masters events in Indian Wells and Miami.

Flying home late on Tuesday night, Yuki was happy to sum up the experience crisply. "I feel a different player, coming out of these three weeks," said Yuki, who had qualified for the big events and played five good matches in the main draw, which saw him win three games against top-ranked players. "I had not taken advantage of my ranking in the past. I didn’t want to wait for long. I wanted to challenge myself and see if I can match up at that level," he added.

READ: Yuki Bhambri defeats Pouille in Indian Wells

Having collected 102 ATP points, Yuki was pleased that the risk had paid off. "It is a different level. That is the level you want to compete on a regular basis. Even if it had not worked out, and my ranking had fallen, I would have taken it," he remarked.

Often, in an attempt to protect their ranking points, players tend to be defensive and get stuck at the Challenger level. For winning a lower level Challenger, you get 80 ATP points. For a player like Yuki, who made the Chennai Challenger final and missed a championship point, it is not that difficult to accumulate points on a regular basis and jump up the rankings.

"These are the best few weeks of my career. Playing the Masters and winning a few matches, it is very satisfying," said the 25-year-old, as he put things in perspective.

The former World No.1 junior, who had won the Australian Open junior title, had played the Australian Open main draw thrice so far among the men, including this season. "I had played a whole year of tournaments last year. At the Australian Open, I felt that I could play at a higher level. That was the key," he recalled.

Yuki had played the quarterfinals of the ATP-500 event in Washington last year, when he lost to Kevin Anderson in three sets. However, he feels more comfortable playing the big boys now.

Davis Cup challenge

Looking at the challenge for the Indian team against China in Davis Cup, scheduled to be played in Tianjin on April 6 and 7, Yuki felt that the Indian team was better despite not having his service.

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"All our singles players are higher ranked. Usually, away ties are tough. But most of us have played in China. It is not alien. The tie is on a hard court and the weather should be good. We should be confident. If we play to potential, am looking forward to playing another World Group play-off," said Yuki, quite positive about Ramkumar Ramanathan, Sumit Nagal and Prajnesh Gunneswaran playing their best tennis to take India forward.

With the players quite used to playing best-of-three sets, Yuki felt that if the team could handle the pressure of playing for the country, it could be smooth passage against Di Wu and Ze Zhang.

Coach made world of a difference

Yuki gratefully acknowledged the role of coach Stephen Koon who guided him for the three weeks in the US.

"It has been fantastic to have Stephen with me. I had been travelling by myself for a number of years, with a trainer, and no coach. Stepping up at the higher level, I needed more guidance. It made a world of difference when I was competing against players whom I had not played before. So much knowledge one can work with, the strategies. Small corrections that make a big difference. It is not a coincidence that I have been doing well," he said. Yuki has known Koon for many years from the Nick Bollettieri Academy.

ALSO READ: ‘We just need to keep pushing,’ says Bhambri

In fact, Yuki has been training off season with the him in Thailand for the last two years, along with some of the best in Asia. The coach is committed to Yen Hsun Lu of Chinese Taipei, but Yuki felt that the two could work it out.

For the moment, Yuki was clear that it was not worth pushing his body, as he had been feeling the pain from January, and hopes to return to the professional circuit by the end of April with the Challengers in Korea.