Indian tennis ace Yuki Bhambri became the first Indian male player in seven years to compete in the main draw in both singles and doubles of the same Grand Slam when he won his first round doubles match at the French Open 2018 in Paris on Wednesday. Bhambri, who has teamed up with Divij Sharan, had to battle for 2 hours 21 minutes to prevail over the Indo-French combine of Purav Raja and Fabrice Martin 6-3, 5-7, 6-4 in a match that finished past 9pm at the French capital.
The much needed win for Yuki came a day after his disappointing exit from singles. The World No. 93 lost his opener 4-6, 4-6, 1-6 to the 110th ranked lucky loser, Ruben Bemelmans of Belgium.
With the double main draw appearance at the claycourt Major, Bhambri emulated the former India No. 1 Somdev Devvarman, who was the last Indian to achieve the same feat at the 2011 US Open.
The now-retired Devvarman lost his singles first round to Andy Murray and made it to the Round of 16 in doubles in tandem with Treat Huey, losing to the legendary all-Indian pair of Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi.
Bhambri has been playing very little of doubles these days in order to focus on his singles career, which has been on an upward curve for the past few months. The only tournament, where the former junior Australian Open champion played doubles in 2018, was the Tata Open Maharashtra. He reached the semi-finals of that ATP 250 event in January, alongside Sharan and they are repeating their partnership in Paris.
The greater focus on singles has reaped Yuki rich dividends as he made a splash at the North American hardcourt swing, reaching the Round of 32 in Indian Wells from the qualifying stages. He also won a Challenger title, that secured the 25-year-old a direct entry into the main draw at Roland Garros and pushed him up to a career-high 83 in the world rankings.Published 31 May 2018, 17:42 IST