New Delhi, Dec 18: Eleven months ago, Yuki Bhambri, was fervently wishing and hoping to make a mark in the world of tennis. The beginning was ominous: a semi-final appearance at the Australian Open.
The end has been even better. Yuki won his second Grade A event in a row to win the Orange Bowl title and with it laid claim to the world No.2 ranking.
On Sunday, Yuki beat Jarmere Jenkins 6-1, 6-3 in the final of the Orange Bowl, the biggest event after the Grand Slams for juniors and avenged the disappointment of missing out on the numero uno rank to Tsung Hua Yang, the junior French Open champion. The cream on the cake being that he became the first Indian - boy or girl - to win the Orange Bowl. Yuki also reached the doubles finals but lost.
Basking in the praise of his coaches and peers at the Nick Bolletieri Tennis Academy a day later, Yuki found it hard to hide his pleasure and slight twang. "I'm thrilled. It's almost like a dream. This is the Orange Bowl, the biggest event after the Slams. It just goes to show that I'm on the right track. I've exceeded my own expectations," he said, sounding pleased as punch.
The constant drone of "congrats" and "hellos" punctuated the conversation. It's clear that this win, coupled with his stellar performance at the Osaka Mayor's Cup, has elevated his impression in the eyes of the who's who at the NBTA. "My coach here is very happy and he has told me that I'm going to be promoted, get to play with the top 100 guys now," Yuki, coached by Aditya Sachdeva in Delhi, said.
The transformation of Yuki has been a slow and steady process and in the Delhi boy's own words, it's a makeover in process. In the final against Jenkins, Yuki had Jenkins confused with wise shot selection, drop shots and lobs. "Little changes in my game have made a big difference. This year I've changed my serve action. I can grind it out and have also really worked hard on my net game. But most importantly, it was when I started believing in myself, after Mexico, that the wins started coming," he explained.
Apart from winning a bowl full of oranges, Yuki has also got his hands on a qualifying wild card for the Sony Ericsson Open in March. For Yuki, from now on, the journey only gets tougher. He will cease to be a junior player, except for the Grand Slams.