Yuki Bhambri: I believe I belong in the top 100

Yuki was hovering around the 200-mark in ATP singles rankings in early 2014. And the end of the $50,000 KPIT ATP Challenger here on Saturday he had ensured his entry into the top 100.

Yuki Bhambri broke into the Top-100 rankings recently.   -  Sandeep Saxena

“Going to 300s and 400s and coming back, I have done that a few times,” said Yuki Bhambri laughingly. “I don’t want to drop now. Hopefully not.”

A wave of crests and troughs is what most young players go through. Such a wave is what Bhambri has gone through as well. It started in early 2014 when he was hovering around the 200-mark in ATP singles rankings. And when the dust settled on the $50,000 KPIT ATP Challenger here on Saturday he had ensured his entry into the top 100 for the second time in three weeks.

From a breakthrough tournament in 2014 Aircel Chennai Open (quarterfinal), to a career high 143 after winning the Chennai Challenger immediately after, to a lengthy injury lay off; from rankings plummeting to hitherto unknown levels (414 this February), to a breakthrough year in 2015 (two titles, three finals and four semifinals in the Challenger circuit), to another career-high ranking in the top-100 he seen it all.

In more ways than one, 2015 can be seen as the first solid foundation he has laid. Modern-day tennis demands that one fulfils a twin objective – the ability to first recover from demoralising defeats and untimely injuries, which can turn a promising year into a catastrophe, and then step up to make a higher grade.

“All these years it’s been more maintenance for me; more so to getting back into shape. I don’t think I have really improved much over the years. I take one step forward and two steps back.

“Now finally I have a chance to just move forward. Like not worry about taking things slowly with my legs etc. Now I can load them up, do a lot more running and play a lot more tennis and finally add more to what I have.”

However, the transition is easier said than done and in compatriot Somdev Devvarman he has someone who has experienced victory and defeat alike.

“It’s tough no doubt,” said Devvarman. “I have seen players play the Challengers and do not so well in the Tour events. It’s a similar to what happens between Futures and Challengers.”

“A lot depends on how you schedule. You will have bad losses. Look at say Benoit Paire (World No. 21). He was down in the 140s or so. He lost in the first round at Australian Open qualifying. He then went back to France to play Futures and then a Challenger. Went up and up and then beat Kei Nishikori at the US Open.

“To me it’s that ability to win that’s important and currently Yuki has that. He is playing great!”

“I do hope to make that transition into ATP tour events,” Bhambri said.

“I still don’t know what it takes to be there [top 100]. I have only played a few matches. But I believe that going by rankings I belong there. I have beaten players in 40s, 50s and 60s and the ones I have lost to have all been better players. They have been close matches. It’s not like I have been thrashed.

I am really happy, more than the rankings, to just finish healthy. There are always things that you can add and improve. I need to be more consistent and get ready to play four or five sets against the top guys. I think that’s going to be the key.

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