Mumbai: As an in-form Yuki Bhambri gears up to compete in his first French Open, four-time winner at Roland Garros, Mahesh Bhupathi, has sounded a note of caution for country's No 1 men's singles player.
"It (clay) is not his best surface and it depends on who he plays. If he plays against (Rafael) Nadal in the first round... So, just wait and see how the draw is," said Bhupathi when asked about Bhambri's — who has played in the Australian Open main draw thrice — chances at the upcoming event.
Bhambri first broke into top-100 late in 2015 but injuries did not allow him to climb further. However, the resilient 25-year-old worked his way back to the top-100 which has allowed him a direct entry into the main draw of the French Open, starting 27 May.
After recovering from a series of injuries, Bhambri has hit the ground running this year with a few top scalps, including Lucas Pouille at Indian Wells and Gael Monfils in Washington. Following his title-winning performance at the Taipei Challenger, Bhambri even leapfrogged 22 places to a career-best rank of 83 in April.
However, Bhupathi feels that the Delhi lad, who missed India's tie against China at the Davis Cup due to injury, should brush aside injury issues to reach his full potential at big tournaments.
"Yuki (Bhambri) hasn't overcome his injury issues. He is constantly injured. He recently missed Davis Cup tie against China because of injury," Bhupathi told Firstpost at the sidelines of a PediaSure event in Mumbai.
Having done well on hard courts through his career, clay doesn't seem like Bhambri's ideal tennis surface as it poses a different challenge. The fact that he’s only played 13 matches on clay in his career with a win-loss record of 8-5 indicates his preference for hard-court events. He played the qualifying matches in Paris in 2015 (reaching the second qualifying round) and 2017 (losing to Peter Polanksy in first qualifying round). He decided to compete at the Busan Challenger in Geneva this week (last clay event before French Open) and if reports are to be believed, he will travel to France with coach Stephen Koon to get acclimatised to the conditions and the surface.
Bhupathi, who is also India's non-playing Davis Cup captain, was hopeful of better performances from Bhambri, especially at the Wimbledon later this year.
"He is playing this week in Korea, so he is fit and as long as he is fit, we have our fingers crossed. I don't think clay is his best surface but hopefully, he will get a good performance at the Wimbledon," said Bhupathi, who won two men's doubles title with Leander Paes at the French Open.
Meanwhile, Bhupathi said that doubles specialist Rohan Bopanna will have his task cut out to defend his title at Roland Garros. Bopanna and his Canadian partner Gabrielle Dabrowski overcame the unseeded pair of Anna-Lena Groenefeld of Germany and Robert Farah of Colombia 2-6, 6-2, 12-10 last year.
"It's gonna be more exciting for him to go back. Last time he went there and got a title. Unfortunately, the fact is that in the sport when you go to a new event, you need to start it from the scratch. You need to work yourself back to challenge for the title. He's got to put a lot of work now to win it again," said Bhupathi.
Last month, Indian tennis saw a string of good results at international tournaments. Prajnesh Gunneswaran won his maiden Challenger title at the Kunming Open in China. Ramkumar Ramanathan rose to his highest ever ranking of 115. Ankita Raina, who broke into the top-200 for the first time in her career, became the first senior Indian women’s singles player to feature at a Major — either qualifiers or main draw — since Sania Mirza. India registered a come-from-behind win over China in the Davis Cup Asia/Oceania division to advance to the World Group play-offs. Bhambri won the $150,000 Santaizi Challenger in Chinese Taipei and the month ended with Saketh Myneni winning a Futures event in Uzbekistan.
"It's the first time in 50 years that we managed to achieve so much and for me as a captain, it's very exciting. We have got four players in the top-250 in the world. So lot of choice and it's something that has never happened before in the history of Indian tennis. We are very positive," he concluded.
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Updated Date: May 17, 2018 18:11 PM