“My goal was to stay close to him and pounce on every opportunity,” says former junior no. 1, Yuki Bhambri, attributing his recent Citi Open win at Washington DC to sheer determination and single-minded focus. It is this mindset which made Bhambri the first Indian to win the junior Australian Open title and the fourth in history to capture a junior singles title at a Grand Slam championship.
“Rankings take care of themselves when I’m playing,” says this level-headed youngster who chatted up with ParentCircle on the importance of sport in the overall development of a child.
Q. You were a junior No.1 and also the winner of the junior Australian open. But, moving up in the senior circuit took its time and wasn’t easy. How crucial was the support of your parents and family overall in this rather tough phase?
A. In India, where we do not have a sports culture, it is not possible to do anything without the support of one’s parents. When I was playing junior tennis, I had heard that transitioning from the junior to the senior level was difficult but I did not realise it would take so much time. Although I had the strokes and the mental level to make the transition, my body did not seem to be able to take the load of the extra hard work because of which I kept getting injured. It was very difficult for me to stay positive. This is where the help of my parents, sisters and cousins came to my rescue. They kept motivating me to work on my fitness, and come back and compete. Even now, they keep pushing me to keep my focus, and are with me all the while.
Q. Your family is full of tennis players, but your parents were not from a sports background. So, how did the sporting culture start in the family?
A. Initially, my father urged my elder sister to spend time in the park hitting balls as he felt it was the best way to keep her healthy and away from television and gossip. There were no cell phones back then, thankfully. Slowly, she joined an academy and my younger sister also tagged along. I too started playing when I turned five. So, that’s how it all began in the family.
Q. What are your biggest goals over the next 5 years?
A. Now, I am just trying to remain healthy for a complete year. My goal has always been to get into the top 100 and then, keep climbing up the ladder.
Q. You have a big family. How do you spend time together for bonding? Is dinner time always together when not playing tournaments?
A. Unfortunately, no. Not now. We used to when we were in school but now we all have different timings. Everyone is working. But, we make it a point to celebrate birthdays and anniversaries together and we almost have at least one each month. My family also celebrates my big victories!
Q. What is the right age for a child to start playing tennis? How do we understand that a child is interested in tennis?
A. A child as young as three can be given a ball and racket but it is better to put them in swimming and athletics first so their body develops for the rigours of tennis. Of course, one must take kids to an academy, give them the equipment and let them play with other children for a year before you know if he will be interested.
Q. What are the prerequisites for a child to learn tennis?
A. Passion is the most important pre-requisite. Then comes the usual suspects - fitness, flexibility, hand-eye coordination and dedication. But, if the will is not there, then it doesn't matter how hard the parent works to provide the right atmosphere or the most advanced coaches. Just doesn’t work.
Q. How can children be kept motivated to train rigorously?
A. It is the parents’ role to keep the child motivated. Today, there are plenty of tournaments being held for all age groups and there is no bigger motivation than holding the winner’s cup. Schools also felicitate winners.
Q. What should the child do to gain stamina? What is the essential diet a child should have, when he decides to learn tennis? Is it okay for a vegetarian to take up this sport?
A. As indicated before, swimming, athletics, football and basketball are all good to help become a strong player. They all individually add strength to different parts of the body and thus promote stamina, coordination, foot movements and muscle.
It is difficult to get the required amount of proteins by being a vegetarian and I really don't know any player who is one.
Q. Often seen in tennis that parents and coaches are very pushy. Do parents expect results too soon?
A. There are all kinds of parents. But, these days children are smart and know how to get what they want. The coaches play a crucial role here in advising parents how much to push and when to take a back seat. There are parents who expect everything too soon. Such parents need to understand it takes years of practice. I won the Australian Open at the age of sixteen but how many years did I toil for it. Parents need to understand that.
Q. What kind of a role players and mentors need to play in shaping the career of a tennis player?
A. Players need positive people around them all the time. They are the ones who understand when to push and when to just leave the players alone, to give them their space to breathe, to enjoy nature, other sports, shows, parties etc. Things which are completely different from the tennis courts.
Q. Should Physical Education classes in schools focus on multiple sports, instead of just running and drills?
A. Yes, each sport uses different parts of the body and this is important for an overall development.
Q. Your message for all the young kids who want to take up tennis
A. Tennis is a great sport. Just enjoy it. It is fun as it can be played against one person and as a team against two people. It beats running on the treadmill alone any day!!
ParentCircle is a magazine imparting an important message through this series (Learn from the Masters) – sports is an important way of life. What’s your message for the readers of ParentCircle?
I totally agree that ' Sports is a way of life'. It is the easiest way to teach children to share, compete, enjoy life and be healthy, all at once. On the court, we are rivals but off the court we go to restaurants together, watch movies and play video games in the lounge. What better way to learn patience and meet children from different backgrounds, cultures, colour and creed.
- First Indian to win the Junior Australian Open title (2009)
- Broke into the top 100 of world singles rankings in October 2015. Slipped since due to injury woes
- Made it to his first ATP 500 event in July 2017. Defeated World No.20 Gael Monfils in the second round
- Both sisters, Ankita and Sanaa Bhambri have been national champions in the same sport
Tennis Academies you can check out:
1. Sania Mirza Tennis Academy
Where: Murthuzaguda, Telangana
What to look out for: Training at all levels, 9 Plexi paved Tennis Courts of Grand Slam standard
Whom to contact: +91 80 2364 2206/07
More details: http://www.saniamirzatennisacademy.com/
2. Mahesh Bhupathi Tennis Academies
Where: Multiple locations
What to look out for: Training at all levels, including programs for students and corporates.
Whom to contact: +91 80 2364 2206/07
More details: http://mbtaworld.com/
3. All India Tennis Association
Where: Multiple locations
What to look out for: Training at all levels
Whom to contact: +91 80 2364 2206/07 | Fax: +91 2364 2209
More details: http://www.aitatennis.com/
4. Krishnan Tennis Centre
Where: Kottivakkam, Chennai
What to look out for: Training at all levels with specific drills to improve technique and movement
Whom to contact: 98843 59706, 94447 84704
More details: http://www.krishnantennis.com/
5. Zeeshan Ali Tennis Academy at Inverture
What to look out for: High Performance Tennis (HPT) residential program. Tournament preparation with a travelling coach.
Whom to contact: 91-7353786436
More details: http://www.zeeshanalitennisacademy.com/