Calcutta: A few years ago, Yuki Bhambri was touted as a promising talent. But he was quite unsure of his abilities, missing a trick here and there, and never really made much of an impression.
However, in recent times, things have changed for the 21-year-old Delhi lad. His body language gives you a positive vibes, he is confident and, more importantly, he has been delivering. That he has won the singles and the doubles titles in the Chennai Challenger last week proves that Yuki is on the right track.
Such has been his impact that when he came to the Bengal Tennis Association courts — after landing in the city on Sunday evening — he sent the shutterbugs into a tizzy and attracted the mediapersons attention while the autograph seekers made a long queue.
For the first time, he will start a tournament — the $50,000 ATP Challenger Tour Kolkata — as one of the favourites. And if everything goes according to the script he might leave the courts Saturday with a beaming face.
Asked whether he is feeling nervous about the favourite tag, he said: “Absolutely not… I am not thinking of the tag at all. But I am also no longer the underdog. I have tremendous self-belief and I am here to win both the singles and doubles titles,” said Yuki.
Still, things won’t be as easy as it sounds. Yuki has a battle on hand as the tournament gets underway here on Monday. Given the quality of players in the Calcutta leg compared to the Chennai one, one can expect tough competition from the outset.
Somdev Dev Varman will certainly look to spoil Yuki’s party. Although gaining an entry via wild card, Somdev is the second seed and will be eager to prove a point, especially after running into poor form of late. Somdev will start his campaign against Mohammed Safwat of Egypt and, he is expected to meet Yuki in the semi-finals.
Somdev lost to Yuki in the semis last week in Chennai. Asked about the draw, he said: “I am not thinking too much about the semis. I am focussing only on tomorrow’s match. I need to play well and see to it that I don’t repeat the mistakes. “As of Yuki, we share a healthy rivalry. We like each other’s company and I am really happy that he is performing so well.”
Besides Somdev and Yuki, a host of other Indians like Sanam Singh, Vishnu Vardhan and Saketh Myneni are also in the fray.
The biggest threat, however, will be top seed Aleksandr Nedovyesov of Kazakhstan. Aleksandr’s rise to the top has been meteoric. Sitting outside top 1000 in the rankings in March 2012, Aleksandr went on to win Challengers in Kazan, Prague and Szczecin to soar to a ranking of 95.
“I am in good form and I am confident… But that doesn’t meant I am complacent. I won’t get any free lunches here… So I need to play hard and need to do my basics right,” said Aleksandr.