Yuki Bhambri is a player who has the potential to be in the top-50 in the world. In the past due to bad luck with injuries, he has not enjoyed the fruits of being in the top-100 for a longer period of time.
Yuki has the attitude and the capability to be back in the top 100 where he belongs should he remain fit. Post-injury that kept Yuki out for most part of 2016, he has been doing well. Coming to the Chennai Open, two tough qualifying rounds and a win in the main draw will give him the confidence that he needs as he heads for the upcoming Australian Open.
I had not expected Ramkumar (Ramanathan) to lose 1-6, 1-6 to Yuki since we know Ram has played some of his best tennis in the past in front of his home crowd in Chennai. Yuki played smart, had a game plan and stuck to it. He put a lot of pressure on Ram and came to the net eight to 10 times in the first three games of the match itself. That set the tone for his approach to this match. He was going to attack at every opportunity and try to keep the points short. He executed his game plan very well.
This could be a very important year for Yuki. It’s a great way to start 2017. In the next six months or so, we should see him jump in the rankings. If he can get into bigger tournaments by using his protected ranking and do well, we will see him earn more ATP points which in turn will improve his rankings.
An important quality of a top-class player is that he has a Plan ‘B’. It was a surprise to me to see that Ramkumar did not attempt anything different when the first set got over in less than 20 minutes.
Coming to the net or playing more aggressively rather than staying 20 feet behind the baseline might have given Ram a chance to get into the match. He was very defensive from the first point itself. There might have been some pressure playing against another Indian but that could also have been approached in a positive manner. He had a lot to prove going into this match and to me it looked like the pressure might have taken its toll.
Playing this sort of defensive tennis is definitely not going to help him move forward. He needs to sit back and analyse where he went wrong. We have seen Ram play some really good tennis matches. He is a fighter and has the potential to do much better than what he has been doing in the last few years.
Ram has been training in Europe for the last couple of years with help from TNTA. Ram needs to start playing and performing in bigger tournaments. He can be in top-150 for sure. He has got the right physique and great support which is really important.
Saketh Myneni played a good first set and had a couple of opportunities against Mikhail Youzhny but if you don’t capitalise on chances against top players, the match is going to slip away very quickly.
Saketh had a good 2016. We saw him getting to a career-high ranking of 137 in singles. The US Open in September was a good tournament for him. The important thing this year is for Saketh to stay injury free.
Towards the end of last year he had some issues with his shoulder. We have to wait and see how that holds out. As a player gets older, injuries take longer to heal. Saketh has a huge serve and one of the nicest backhands on the Tour. He needs to work a lot on his fitness as that has always been a big question mark for him. If Saketh is able to stay in good shape and injury free, this could be a crucial year for him.
Talking about the Davis Cup, considering the team we’ve had in the last three years where only one or no players have been in the top 100, our performance has been excellent. We have reached the world group play offs three years in a row.
The upcoming match against New Zealand is not going to be easy. We will not get any help from the weather in the month of February. New Zealand have three players in the top 60 in the world in doubles. It’s going to be a tough tie but I’m confident that our team will once again come together and get another win for our country.
(This is a column by Zeeshan Ali – India’s Davis Cup coach)