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After a year of struggle with injury, Yuki Bhambri looks ahead to 2017

Injuries have seen the Indian's ranking dip below 500.

Yuki Bhambri
Yuki Bhambri: In search of good times

2016 was a season Indian tennis star Yuki Bhambri’s fans were looking forward to with a lot of eagerness. After a memorable finish to 2015 in which he broke into the top 90 of the ATP World Rankings for the first time in his career, much was expected from him to build on his sizzling 2015 run.

Instead what turned out was a year mired in pain and disappointment as the Delhi player suffered from a recurring tennis elbow that ate up a chunk of his season. He was sidelined from March to September for six months and when he returned, his rankings had slipped way below 250.

His best performance post-comeback was only a semi-final appearance at an ITF Futures event and his current ranking is as low as 530th.

It had been a hard time for the 24-year-old. The talented Bhambri recently opened up about his struggles to The New Indian Express and admitted that his decision to play in Australia aggravated the injury.

“I did not play for eight months overall since this issue started last November. I took a painkilling injection to play in Australia and ended up aggravating the injury. By March, when I decided to take some much-needed rest, the elbow was in bad shape.”

Somewhere deep inside it does hurt especially because this came right after he had self-admittedly played his first full season on the Tour in 2015. Just when he was looking all set to climb the higher echelons, injuries derailed him.

Failed to make hay when it mattered

It was an opportunity lost no doubt. Even Bhambri concurs that he never got the chance to take advantage of his higher ranking.

That said, there is no alternative to hard work. A change in ranking does not bring about any difference in the level of motivation which is essential for success and Bhambri is quick to point that out.

“Whether you are 93 or 534, the motivation does not change,” said Bhambri. “However, I would have liked to make full use of my ranking by playing some of the higher-level tournaments and build on last season. I never got the chance to do it. That was hard,” he added.

The journey back was not easy. Yuki revealed that he could pick up the racquet only in August. Clearly, he hasn’t got enough time to be back to his full strength and is currently operating at only 80 per cent.

“I spent four-five months in Delhi and ended up exploring. Apart from tennis, all other exercises were imperative. It was only in mid-August that I picked up the racquet, but my shoulder would hurt, forearms felt sore. I almost felt like a beginner. Even now, I am operating at about 80 per cent.”

The former junior Australian Open champion, who divides his training time between Delhi and Florida, naturally wants to leave behind this ill-fated season and look forward to 2017. He is leaving no stone unturned in trying to get ready for the new season and will even head to Thailand this month for pre-2017 training.

However, he is yet to decide his opening tournament of next year. There is a possibility it can be the Chennai Open qualifiers, he hinted. Even though his ranking has plummeted to below 500th, he will still be able to use his protected ranking for the Australian Open qualifiers and the year’s first Slam is what he is waiting for eagerly at the moment.

“I have not decided my opening tournament in 2017— it might be the Chennai Open qualifiers. But what I am looking forward to the most are the Australian Open qualifiers. I cannot wait for the year to begin,” he signs off.

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