The first time Yuki Bhambri played a Masters 1000 main draw match, the year was 2009 and he had been handed a wildcard for Miami. He lost to Argentine Diego Junqueira in straight sets. Fast forward nine years and Bhambri was once again into the main draw of a Masters event – this time on the west coast at Indian Wells in California. A much improved and wiser, Bhambri this time notched his first win in a ATP Masters 1000 event by downing Frenchman Nicolas Mahut 7-5, 6-3 in an hour and 42 minutes.
Played on Court 7, Bhambri came from behind in both sets to clinch victory on his first match point opportunity. He trailed the World No 101 Mahut 1-4 in the opening set and 1-3 in the second set before drawing back with convincing and positive attitude which reflected in his groundstrokes. He will next take on another Frenchman in Lucas Pouille.
In the intense Californian heat, Mahut started both sets strongly before fading under deep groundstrokes from Bhambri and lacklustre mistakes including one which handed Bhambri the match. At the net for what should have been a simple putaway into an open court, Mahut went for too much angle and handed Yuki the match.
It did not help the Frenchman that he did not have the best of days on his serve. Mahut serve five double faults with his serve percentage faltering at 55% on first. Subsequently, he won just 54% of his first serve points and rather more drastically just 38% points on the second. It came as no surprise then that Mahut was broken thrice in a row in the first set to go down 5-7 in 54 minutes.
The second set followed a similar theme and run with Bhambri breaking Mahut’s serve three times in a row, while holding his own, to close out the match. Bhambri’s continued pressure on Mahut’s fragile serve was further highlighted by the fact that the Frenchman faced a break point on each of his serves in the second set.
Bhambri qualified for the main draw after coming through qualifying. He first beat Dennis Novikov before getting past compatriot Ramkumar Ramanathan to book a place in the 128-player draw.