A combination of talent and confidence is quintessential to thrive in the demanding professional circuit and Yuki Bhambri is full of both as he avowed that he is capable of winning an ATP World Tour title. Yuki broke into top-100 in 2015 but injury halted his progress further. He did not play many big events in the 2017 season but the 25-year-old Delhi lad ended the year strongly by winning the Pune Challenger and finishing a semi-finalist at the Bengaluru Open.
The 2017 season also brought the biggest win of Bhambri's career when he scalped world number 22 Frenchman Gael Monfils at the Citi Open, where he reached the quarter-finals after qualifying for the ATP 500 event.
Winning five matches in a row is what he needs to grab a title on the ATP World Tour.
"The key is to play as much possible and play bigger tournaments. I had a few quarter-finals (on ATP World Tour). You have to focus on every match (to win the title) whether it's an ATP or a Challenger or an ITF Futures. If you ask me whether I am capable of winning an ATP event, I would say yes I am," Yuki told PTI, brimming with confidence.
Yuki has long been India's big hope after winning the junior Australian Open in 2009 and prestigious Orange Bowl in the same year but consistent success at the highest level is yet to arrive.
As the new season begins Monday with the Tata Open Maharashtra in Pune, Yuki said he is ready for the big leap.
To prepare for the fresh season and challenges ahead, Yuki had spent some quality time in Bangkok where he trained under renowned coach Stephen Koon in the company of top Asian players.
"I spent my off-season in Bangkok. All the top Asian players from Korea, Taiwan, Japan and Georgia were there. It was a good group, good weather, similar to Australia. We had trained together last year as well and decided to come back again," he said.
Asked to elaborate on the training, Yuki said, it was more about "maintaining myself."
"I tried to find ways to push in every set but at the same time not to overload and make sure we are improving but not doing too much.
"There were little, little improvements in every sphere, the backhand, the forehand. Forehand is a bit harder now. There is better concentration and better intensity," Yuki explained.
Players usually are nervy for the first match of the season but Yuki is taking the pressure in a positive way to justify the wild card entry given to him along with Ramkumar Ramanathan.
"I have not seen it like this it is the first match. Every match we play is important. Preparation is same. It takes time when you come back from a break. Hopefully, the sharpness will be there," he said.
"It will be good for my confidence to start well but it's a long season. It's not a do or die situation. I have 25 tournaments to play. Hopefully, I will start well but not overthink about it."
And he is going to a place where he is unbeaten since October 2015. Yuki won the KPIT Challenger at Balewadi in 2015, which helped him re-enter the top-100 and also last month he won the title, which helped him finish the season close to top-100.
However, Yuki, now ranked 116, said past records won't matter much since the stage is bigger.
"I have done well but it will be different. The courts will be re-surfaced, they will be slower and conditions will be different," he said.
He also expressed satisfaction that the tournament- deprived country has not lost out on this ATP 250 event after Chennai Open organisers backed off due to financial issues.
"Good to have Pune taking it up and we have not lost it (the tournament)," he said.
After winning the Pune Challenger, Yuki had lost to young sensation Sumit Nagal in the semi-finals of the Bengaluru Open.
Asked to reflect on that defeat against a young compatriot, Yuki said: "I have already forgotten. We try and learn from mistakes and come back stronger."
Asked specifically if he played bad or Nagal played extremely well, Yuki said, "A combination of both."
"It was tough and the court was also different and Sumit deserved to win that day," he signed off.