Yuki Bhambri was going into the contest against Benoit Paire of France with plenty to play for. He was the last surviving Indian singles player in the draw and was looking to get more matches under his belt since suffering a tennis elbow in 2016 that kept him out for six months. Now after spending an hour and 26 minutes on Thursday on the Center Court of the SDAT Tennis Stadium in Chennai, where he was beaten 3-6, 4-6 by the Frenchman, he would go into the Australian Open qualification rounds with a positive mood having stretched the World No 47.
“If I would have taken those chances, the outcome could have been different. But it still was a good match for me. He is ranked 47 but is much better than that.”
“I would like to take the positives from this. It was a hard match and from my side a good match. I made him sweat and it isn’t easy to do that to a top-50 player in the world,” Bhambri would say in the post-match press conference. The chances he speaks of are the break point opportunities that came his way in the second game of the second set and the ninth game of the first set.
There were moments in the match where Paire would lose his concentration and throw his racket around. But he maintains that this doesn’t affect his game. “I was not focused as I would have liked to. But I served well on the break points. Yuki is a good player, solid from the baseline. He moves well. It was a good tournament for him but he can do better,” the Frenchman would state.
The Avignon born Paire has taken to boxing to keep himself focused and has employed the services of former boxer Brahim Asloum as his fitness coach. When queried how boxing help his tennis, Paire replied: “In boxing if you are not focused you can take shots (hits) on face, same in tennis, where you move a lot, if you lose focus the other guys wins.”
India’s hopes at the Chennai Open now reside in the doubles pairings where Rohan Bopanna and Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan made the semi-finals alongside Purav Raja and Divij Sharan.