Yuki Bhambri retires from singles, aims for double Grand Slam success

Without any emotional rhetoric or balderdash, Yuki Bhambri says he has abandoned the singles format.

The 28-year-old, once considered a top-50 prospect, is the first major Indian player after Sania Mirza to retire from singles to extend his tennis career. Tired of a stop-start singles career due to knee injuries, Yuki had decided some time ago that doubles is the way forward for him.

He made no excuse that the system wasn’t helping him enough, nor did he regret not being able to reach the heights expected of him.

Walking out of the outdoor courts of Balewadi Stadium, his gait was sure as he said “no more singles for me”.

“I did the best I knew how in my singles career and I’m at peace with it. Maybe something was wrong, maybe it was bad luck, I don’t know. No regrets, there was nothing more I could have done,” Yuki told PTI in an interaction.

“It was more because of injuries and not because of a lack of sponsors. There were no sponsors and I was lucky to have done well throughout my career and was able to continue the Tour, but of course injuries played a big role. Last weekend he competed in the singles qualifiers at the Tata Open Maharashtra, so was it a sudden decision to quit the format? Yuki said the idea of ​​playing the singles qualifying event was to earn some prize money by competing in the main draw as the doubles doesn’t have much to offer. But the decision to stop singles was made a long time ago.

“I (had) decided in 2019 that doubles is the way forward for me and I wanted to do it while I could still play a little bit of singles, which I did last year. I was injured. I came back in 2021 and the first 2-3 tournaments I played with Protected Ranking. Then I went to America and got COVID and I got hurt again, so the plan was always there, but it got delayed,” he explained.

At the peak of his career, breaking into the top-100 in 2018, Bhambri was looking to finish in the top-50 next season, but injuries to both his knees took away the crucial three and a half years .

Then the exhaustive search for a reliable remedy began. After consulting several doctors, he finally got the treatment he needed, in the US, and was back in court in March 2021.

The move to quit singles was well planned.

“The goal at the end of the day is to become Grand Slam singles champion. Nobody chooses a tennis racket to become a doubles Grand Slam champion. I did singles for as long as I could but it was a lot of start-stop, start-stop for me and I didn’t want to be at a later stage in my career where it’s too late to even play doubles and start all over again. “With an injury at 33 or 35, I wouldn’t be able to come back if I had to play Futures, because you want to play at the highest level.” Yuki teamed up with compatriot Saketh Myneni, who serves big.

In 2021, they won a combined five Challenger titles and made one semifinal on the ATP Tour after starting the year by winning a pair of titles on the smaller ITF circuit. It gave them the chance to be ready for bigger challenges: the ATP 500, the Masters and the Grand Slams. It is already in the top-100 and aims to finish in the top-50 soon.

Is the success of doubles satisfying or does a part of the mind still crave that elusive singles? “When you have made a decision, the satisfaction is there. There is always something better coming out. If I was 50 in the world I would have said ‘I wish I was 20 in the world’. Federer may not be satisfied with his 20 Grand Slams, probably he would have liked to win 50.” There was a time when he wasn’t doing better and he didn’t know how he was going to make a comeback with so much pain in his knees. “That was a time when I thought what I could do if not tennis. I had long ago accepted that sponsors don’t come, tennis is an individual game and you have to do it alone.” Nor was he concerned about the lack of financial support. There was a time when he didn’t even have a real shoe sponsor and was left with only one pair of shoes.

“I don’t have any hope from the system, it never was, it’s stupid to think about it, when it comes, ‘thank you’, thankful. I know it won’t be there, I knew what I was getting into, it’s a tough sport and when you get results, everything takes care of it. The transition has been made, but adjusting the style of play is an ongoing process for Yuki. Sometimes he forgets he’s allowed to hit in the alleys.

“It’s not going to play as naturally as singles because you’ve been doing that all your life. I keep reminding myself ‘you gotta hit it in the alley’, it’s not the singles track. And the training style has also changed. “I practice more volleys now. In singles you work two hours from the baseline and now work more on your volleys. You are on the net all the time and you need to be ready. So what is it that Yuki likes about the doubles? “It goes very fast. Within two minutes the whole game can change. You have to be (a) better player in crucial moments. The workload is different, it’s not as physically demanding as playing singles.

“It’s explosive with serving and volleying, running back and forth, but not running back and forth as much as in singles. I don’t have to run much (laughs), I know the game will end in an hour and a half at the most’, he signed off.

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