What’s the story?
A day before the start of the French Open 2018, India’s Yuki Bhambri’s original first round opponent, Yen-Hsun Lu withdrew from the claycourt Major. Replacing the 113th ranked Chinese Taipei player would be Belgian lucky loser, Ruben Bemelmans, ranked 111th in the world.
In case you didn’t know
The 94th ranked Bhambri is the only Indian in the singles main draw after Ramkumar Ramanathan, Sumit Nagal, Prajnesh Gunneswaran and Ankita Raina failed to qualify. Gunneswaran was the only one from the quartet to make it to the final round of qualifying.
Bhambri got a direct entry into the main draw at the French Open after winning the Chinese Taipei Challenger in April. This will be his main draw debut at the Parisian Slam.
The heart of the matter
Bhambri and Bemelmans have met only once before at the New Delhi Challenger in 2015. In a tight three-setter, the Delhi player edged the Belgian in that hardcourt match.
Things might be tough for the Indian this time with Bhambri having played no claycourt event before the French Open. His last tournament was the Busan Open on hardcourts, where he bowed out in the second round, after recovering from a minor foot problem.
Bemelmans, on the other hand, has already played three rounds in qualifying, losing the final round to Thomaz Bellucci. It is very much expected that he will make Bhambri work hard.
The Belgian is one of seven lucky losers to get a berth in the main draw at the French Open this year. Even the 10-time champion Rafael Nadal will be facing a different opponent from the one he was drawn against. Former Australian Open doubles champion Simone Bolelli will now be facing the Spaniard following the pullout of Alexandr Dolgopolov.
Minutes before the Day 1 play got under way, Serbian veteran Viktor Troicki too pulled out, making way for Egypt’s Mohamed Safwat to take on the fourth seed Grigor Dimitrov.
It is expected that the Bhambri vs Bemelmans first round clash will take place on Monday. The schedule has not been released yet.
Clay is not a favoured surface for the India No. 1 and he has admitted that he hasn’t trained much on the grinding red dirt. Irrespective of that, he will surely try to give his very best effort.
Bhambri is right now in the form of his life and he will be keen to bring the confidence that he showed on hardcourts earlier this year.Published 27 May 2018, 15:27 IST