The rising tennis star Yuki Bhambri is all set to drop the junior tag
“I love to hit it hard!” Yuki Bhambri exclaims shaping for an exquisite square cut. The boys around him are not giving him any special treatment. “They have come to take your pictures but don’t expect any leniency from us. Mind your middle stump,” cautions Vinayak. “These are the guys who keep me rooted,” says Yuki, as he finally settles for a chat.
The junior title at the Australian Open has made him the toast of the nation, but the boy is taking it easy. “I realised the importance of it only when the media came swooning over me. Otherwise it was just another match. I am still the same. Winning the title is a job quarter done. The real fight is now, when the transition from junior to senior level starts.”
He gives an insight into the fight ahead. “At the junior level players hit the ball at around 100 km/hr but at the senior level it is above 150 km/hr. Now in India we don’t have spare senior players in the top 100 to practice against. Those who are don’t like to practice with us. Till date it was about lasting three sets, from now on I have to be ready for five-setters. Even the rallies are going to be longer. Such a situation could lead to complacency because at your level you are not facing much competition.”
Thankfully, the young lad has enough sponsorship that he could train at the prestigious Nick Bollettieri Academy in Florida.
However, he has to work on his body, which is too thin for the senior category. “I have been told to put on muscular weight. Shoulders, calves and thighs are crucial in tennis and I have to work on them.” The good thing is he can eat anything.
“Tandoori chicken, parantha, naan, sandwich… I am allowed to eat all.” On a serious note he shares, he is strong in terms of agility and stamina. “I complete 7.5 kilometres within 30 minutes everyday. And then practice for two hours followed by an hour of body building exercises.”
Doesn’t Yuki stand for courage? “Exactly. It is a Japanese name, which also means snow. My father found it in a magazine.” His schoolmates must have made fun of the name. “Every time they did, I told them it is unique. You won’t find anybody with such a name.” Indeed. Now that he has proved it, they must be jealous.
“They haven’t shown me on my face and as long as that doesn’t happen, I am fine,” he breaks into a mischievous laughter. But exams? “My principal has allowed me to skip unit tests. He said in front of the school that the country has so many doctors and engineers but very few sportspersons. So we support Yuki. However, I want to complete my education. You never know, when an injury will put a full stop to your career in sports.”
On the circuit, he is friends with his strong competitors like Ryan Harrison, Bernard Tomic.
“My idol is Pete Sampras. I don’t want to take the rivalry beyond the court. In fact this generation is like this. See Federer and Nadal. They play hard and then console whoever loses.” And girls? “We only talk about tennis,” Yuki returns to the baseline.