Yuki Bhambri is aghast at being excluded from the Target Olympic Podium Scheme (TOPS) after preferring the US Open over Asian Games even as a red-faced All India Tennis Association (AITA) said it is trying to convince the Sports Ministry to reconsider its decision.
AITA had exempted the country’s top singles player considering that playing at the Grand Slams is crucial to secure ranking points, which would earn the Delhi player a direct entry into the Tokyo Olympics.
“We have asked the government to reconsider the decision and include both Yuki and Leander Paes in TOPS. We told them that Yuki needs to be in top-64 to earn direct qualification for Tokyo Olympics and that’s why playing at the US Open is important,” AITA secretary Hironmoy Chatterjee told PTI.
“They told us that when Yuki gets back to playing Davis Cup, his case would be re-examined,” he added.
Yuki recently reclaimed a spot in the top-100 and if he manages to maintain his rank by the cut-off date, he will get direct entry to compete at the Flushing Meadows.
An appearance at the US Open would secure Yuki a minimum prize purse of USD 50,000 (approx Rs 33 lakh). If Yuki manages to go beyond the first round, the prize money will also go up.
Yuki had bowed out with first-round losses at the Australian Open (AUD 60,000) and French Open (Euro 40,000).
Even if he loses at the same stage at the Wimbledon (30,000 pounds) and US Open (USD 50,000), it would give him enough money to travel with his Australian coach Stephen Koon and a physio for the whole year.
The biggest advantage of being in top-100 is a direct entry into the Grand Slams. Even if one loses in the first round, it ensures funds to the tune of ₹1 crore after tax deduction.
Ever since Yuki turned a pro, he has never had a consistent sponsor who would take away his travel and equipment worries. He is employed with ONGC and draws a salary from there.
“I thought I was doing the right thing according to what the aim of TOPS committee is — to compete and be a medal prospect for India in the Olympics in two years‘ time. Challenging myself against the best in the world at the US Open is the best way to prepare for that,” said Yuki.
“I am a little disappointed and confused that I have been removed from the scheme. I don’t think I did something wrong by choosing to play and compete against the best in the world,” he reasoned.
“Regardless of whether I am included in a scheme or supported by the government or federation or not, I will keep working to be the best player I can be each and every year and represent India on the tennis tour.”
Yuki received a monthly stipend of Rs 50,000 for few months after he was included in TOPS recently. Similarly, for his preparations for the 2014 Asian Games, he was sanctioned close to Rs 20 lakh from NSDF in 2011-12 and 2012-2013.
Over the years, AITA and DLTA have chipped in with financial support of Rs 20 lakh.
If he makes the cut for the last two Majors of the season, there is a bit of history Yuki will make.
Yuki will become only the fourth player in the history of Indian tennis to compete in men’s singles main draw in all four Grand Slams in a single season.
Ramesh Krishnan was the first Indian to do so. He did it four times in his career (1983, 1984, 1988, 1990). After him, it was Leander Paes, who competed in all singles major in 1997. Somdev Devvarman was the last Indian to do so in 2011.
After Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi stopped playing singles in 2000, it took almost a decade for the next Indian to come on to the scene with Somdev competing at the 2009 US Open.
Yuki had to opt out of the Asian Games because of the lash of dates with the US Open. Had it not been the case, the Delhi-player would have appeared at both events.