LONDON: The good news for Yuki Bhambri is that his (right) knee has healed, leaving the India No.1 sufficiently prepped for Wimbledon, starting Monday. But the 25-year-old is faced with a stern test – up against qualifier Thomas Fabbiano, ranked 121, a player he hasn’t beaten in three previous meetings.
Bhambri, ranked 85, and making his Wimbledon main draw debut, enjoyed a week of rest and preparation. The Indian was forced to retire from his first-round match against Canadian Milos Raonic after coming through a stiff qualifying draw at the Queen’s Club tournament, an ATP 500 series feature. He strained his knee the previous week in s-Hertogenbosch.
The Delhi-based pro didn’t want to push himself with the third major of the year just around the corner. “It’s the knee, because of which I was struggling with everything, serving, off the ground, running, bending. This week has helped, I was working with the physios on the Tour, and we have the same people at Wimbledon. I’ve done quite a bit of strengthening and stretching this past week,” he said.
Bhambri, playing his fifth Grand Slam main draw, is looking to break the duck, having lost in the first round in his previous four attempts. He has shown good form to accumulate a 4-3 win-loss record in the lead-up to the championships, including a victory over the 69-ranked American Taylor Fritz. But playing a qualifier, particularly one who he has lost to as recently as last year, on grass, he will need to play his best tennis.
“There’ll be no surprises,” Bhambri, lodged in the bottom quarter of the top-half of the draw, said. “I know him quite well, we came through the Challenger Tour together. I think it’ll be a good one on Monday. The courts are playing a bit like low-bouncing hard courts. It hasn’t been that hard to adapt, also the forecast for the next week is warm weather so makes for quick conditions.”
Despite the untimely injury and his head-to-head record against the 5 ft 8′ Italian, Bhambri expressed confidence. “I’ve had seven matches on grass, a few good wins along the way. This is what these matches lead up to, a Grand Slam. I have to put everything into it now.”
Bhambri, who lost to lucky loser Belgian Ruben Bemelmans in his French Open debut, could face a heavyweight opponent – in either the sixth-seeded Grigor Dimitrov or Swiss strongman Stan Wawrinka — should he make it past the first round.