Trying your hand at being a successful (Non Cricket) sportsperson in India is very admirable and dare i say Crazy. The rewards are priceless and the falls are devastating.
Yuki Bhambri, an Indian professional tennis player and winner of 2009 Australian open junior championships has been there done that.
“I have put so much of myself into tennis and have over extended it to make sure i succeed” Says Bhambri who is looking forward to play Wimbledon in a month’s time.
Bhambri did have an advantage of family as both his sisters, Ankita Bhambri and Sanaa Bhambri and cousins Prerna Bhambri and Prateek Bhambri are professional tennis players. “My love for the sport began when i was travelling with my sisters for their tournaments. I use to watch them play and have seen them happy as well as sad. Slowly i came to know how good you feel when you win and how strong you be when you fail. I wanted to experience both the emotions myself and hence i thought of picking up a sport “.
Tennis was an obvious choice. “When i was 10 or 11 years of age i use to hang out in the court and watch my sisters practice and use to listen to the coach when he use to give those never ending inspiring lessons to them. In no time my interest started rising”.
However his parents were not that keen of putting him in tennis as already first two kids were in the game. But somehow he convinced them. The advantage of being the youngest came to his rescue.
1st time he went out for tennis tournament and landed in Bangalore after winning zone matches. The winner of Bangalore was supposed to fly to South Africa to compete at continent level. Bhambri cleared all the stages and soon was on his way to the Rainbow Nation – South Africa.
Soon after that he also started travelling a lot. “Sometimes it was difficult for my parents to decide as with whom they ll travel. Once there was this time when 3 of us were in different places. Paris, United States and Australia.” he laughs
Soon as he stepped out of country he started exploring his weaknesses “You need to compete with the best to be the best. My idea of motivation is never to be satisfied with your achievements. Once that idea is into your system, you will never be disappointed with yourself”.
Bhambri accepts the fact that staying determined and persistent every time is close to impossible
“There are times when rejection hits hard and there are times when strategies don’t work. That is the time when i go through my previous victories. My father has a collection of articles, i read them and i revive my confidence. If i am capable of winning all those matches, i am capable of overcoming lean phase too”
Bhambri was winning matches but that turning point in his life came when he was playing a match in Indonesia and people from IMG was there to select players with potential. “Those people told me to visit their tennis centre and train there. I did not give much attention. After 2 months, my mother found the card lying somewhere and she told me to give it a try. I called them, i went there and since then i was a better tennis player. I became technically sound, my confidence increase and i got thorough professional training there”.
Apart from that, now Bhambri goes for 5 weeks training in Europe every now and then.
School was never a problem as travelling was less till 9th grade. Post that, school was quite supportive. “i travel with books. I study for my exams in flights and after the matches. Books are non negotiable. I make sure i give my exams well prepared”.
After he won Australian open. India started knowing him. “After that people ask for pictures together, they wish me luck every time they see me. In fact few days back i was returning back after family dinner and a guy ran towards me and asked me about how i am healing and when will they see me back in action. It feels good. I connect more”.
Apart from tennis, Bhambri has another obsession and that is cricket. “Once i get what i want in tennis i might switch to willow game. We can make a late debut in cricket” Laughs Bhambri.
However on a serious note Bhambri likes to dedicate his entire life to tennis as he feels he is born to play this game.
He idolizes Sachin Tendulkar and now after his retirement watches less cricket. “You just dont feel like watching cricket without its master in it”.
For the fact, Bhambri has a huge collection of cricket bats as well.
He feels reading brings stability. He is not an avid reader but would like to take out some time for the books.
He has seen everything of tennis. When asked about does it acts like a disadvantage as you have tried everything in the game., he says “Sports is about continuous learning. You can never learn whole of it. Reason why Sachin Tendulkar still practices more than seasonal players”.
His parents have been a huge support. “They are my backbone.”.
Bhambri is more close to the eldest sister Ankita Bhambri. “She knows all my secrets” Laughs Bhambri.
Being an Indian sportsperson Bhambri expresses his concern towards lack of infrastructure in the country. “We are improving but there is a long way to go. I go to tournaments. I see a player comes with the entire team. They have physicians, doctors, trainers, Psychologist. All these are important elements, we simply cant ignore that. In India, availability of experts is less and even if they are available some players cant afford them. We have potential. A little support in the correct direction will help us reach the epitome”.
Bhambri like every other sportsperson is hoping, one day it will change