Yuki Bhambri of India reached the semifinals of the Australian Open Junior Championships last month and the 15-year-old has received quite a bit of press since returning home. Here is one such story from the India Times. Aside from the obvious contrast in attention to the other losing semifinalist, Ryan Harrsion of the U.S. (I found virtually nothing written about Harrison, which indicates yet again how unimportant tennis is here), what struck me about all this attention is how India, like Great Britain, is desperate for a male tennis hero to challenge for Grand Slam titles.
The recent national uproar over India's major tennis star Sania Mirza's actions (Bonnie Ford has a thorough synopsis of her tribulations at espn.com), serves as an indicator of the difficulties that accompany sports fame in India, to the point that Mirza has announced she will not play there. Bhambri would not face some of these issues simply because he is not female, but it has to make any athlete wonder if they should be careful what they wish for.
In addition to an interview with Bhambri, the Indian Tennis Blog has a list of all ATP, WTA and ITF players from that country, and Mirza is the only singles players inside the top 150 in the pro ranks. Like Harrison, Bernard Tomic and Filip Krajinovic, Bhambri is represented by IMG, so expectations are much higher for him than they were for say, Somdev Devvarman, although Devvarman had won a Futures event before he came to the U.S. to attend the University of Virginia. For the blog's interview of Devvarman, click here.
Bhambri and Devvarman have obviously selected different routes for their tennis careers, routes based on their individual circumstances, options and personalities. I hope that dealing with the visibility that comes with winning is equally stress-free for both of them.
Wednesday, February 6, 2008