Struggles with injuries and successful comebacks has defined Yuki Bhambri’s career, a former junior world no. and winner of the 2009 Australian Open Junior Championship. After dropping out of the top 500 owing to an elbow injury in 2016, Bhambri bounced back to beat Gael Monfils en route to a quarterfinal run in Citi Open. In 2018, he had reached his career-high ranking of 83, before a right knee injury left him inactive for two and a half years. Bhambri once again made a stunning comeback, but this time with renewed strategy that left him with nine titles since 2021. The 30-year-old shifted his focus on doubles, and together with Saketh Myneni, Bhambri has been reaping the rewards of a decision he describes as a “right call”. In November 2022, he had reached a career-high doubles ranking of 94.
In an exclusive interview with Hindustan Times Digital, Bhambri, who made a winning start in the qualifiers of the 5th Tata Open Maharashtra, talked about his experience of playing the ATP event in Pune, his success in doubles and his partnership with Saketh. Here are excerpts..
Q) You marked the end of your 2022 season with a rather comfortable win. Tell us about the match and about the experience of playing this ATP event in Pune.
It’s the favourite tournament for all Indians to play and we are all really glad to have the opportunity to play at home. We rarely get that chance to do so. So we just try to maximise and do whatever we can. Hopefully everyone here can really step up and do well.
Q) A lot of your success in 2022 came in doubles – 7 titles in 8 finals. How do you look back at the year?
It was definitely a good year. You can always do better, but I felt me and Saketh, once we started, we were always improving and we managed to win a couple of tournaments as well. The key now is to maximise, and I keep reiterating the fact that having an ATP event is very helpful and once you get into these kinds of draws you just step up and hopefully get a few wins which enables us to compete in the 250s and 500s and Grand Slams as well.
Q) You just mentioned Saketh Myneni. Together you have won nine titles in the last two years. How would you describe this partnership?
It’s great. We have been friends for as long as I can remember which definitely helps and makes it easier to see each other’s face week in and week out. We are just working and continuously improving. We know the ceiling is very high for us and we want to reach our potential.
Q) What is it that particularly clicked with Saketh?
I think it has just been our game styles – very different but similar in some ways. We are obviously very good from the baseline and have decent volleys as well. He has obviously got a big serve and better returns. We just in a way complete our game styles in doubles and complement each other.
Q) In the last two years, you have only played a handful of singles matches compared to doubles. Was it a conscious choice? What led you to this shift?
Yes it is. Once I made a comeback I decided to try and play more doubles while still having my rankings in singles so that I can do well. I think that was the right call to do that and that’s the way forward for me. Hopefully to be able to be more healthy and keep trying to play the Slams and do well in doubles.
Q) What are your goals for 2023?
Hopefully to be competing at all the Grand Slams and moving up in the rankings.