Bhambris have it in their blood

prerna yuki bhambriIt ‘s all in their genes. It started with the eldest daughter taking up the sport and now the whole of present Bhambri clan is into tennis. What started as a recreational activity now runs deep into their blood and it’s their love for the sport that present generation of the Bhambri family has given country some of the most promising tennis players off late.

Starting from Ankita to Sanaa to Yuki and now their cousin Prerna, for the Bhambris it seems tennis is a regular dish on the dinner table!

“Growing up with sisters (Ankita and Sanna) who have excelled in the same field, it became quite easy for me to follow their footsteps. They always guide and motivate me. While all of us are associated with tennis, the best part is that everyone understands when someone loses or wins. The emotions we share with regard to tennis are understood by all of us very well, which is a kind of advantage,” says Yuki Bhambri, who recently won the national title at the DLTA Complex, New Delhi.

Ankita Bhambri, the first child of the family, took up the sport only on parents’ persuasion as a recreational activity on the nearby Siri Fort courts. After two years, her younger sister Sanaa too joined to give her company. Bhambri’s sisters, Ankita, and Sanaa, have been among the country’s top women players who have been national champions in the past. They won titles on the ITF women’s circuit events held in India (Ankita has eight singles and seven doubles titles while Sanaa has two singles and nine doubles).

“We took Ankita to play tennis just to keep her engaged. But she showed positive signs of taking it further. Following her footsteps, my younger daughter Sanaa started playing tennis too. It became a daily ritual taking them to the courts and seeing them improving each passing day,” reminisces Indu Bhambri, the proud mother of the Bhambris.

Adds Ankita, “Having your own sister in the same field was like a privilege for me -- we travelled together, discussed our games. Whenever we were travelling on tours we stayed together, shared rooms and always had the comfort of a closed one right next to us.”

Though Ankita stopped playing on the professional circuit two years back, she now handles the promotional and marketing wing of the company Team Tennis at the Siri Fort Complex to promote the game, while Sanaa, who is pursuing her MBA from the US, is still playing at the university level.

Seeing Ankita and Sanaa progressing in the sport, their first cousin Prateik Bhambri – son of Narender and Poonam Bhambri – too got enough motivation to try out his hand in the same sport. Prateek, who is a third year student of St. Stephen’s College, Delhi has played on the national circuit, but has been out of sport from past one-and-a-half years due to an elbow injury.

“I got interested in tennis seeing Ankita and Sanna progress in the sport. Following me were Yuki and Prerna. I practice with Yuki and my own sister Prerna many a times. We discuss the game plans and ways of improving our game,” says Prateek, who would resume his training very soon.

Sports run in their veins. With the eldest kids of the same generation in the family-- Ekta Bhambri and Esha Bhambri -- representing India in the 6th Asian Table Tennis Championships, sports was no alien terrain for the rest of the children in the family.

Youngest of the lot Prerna -- who is the top seed on the national circuit -- is a new hope for the Indian women circuit, as she won the maiden ITF title earlier this year. Inspired by her cousins, Prerna took up the game at the age of five. 

“I started playing tennis about 13 years back at the Shanti Sports Complex in Vasant Kunj. From there I moved on to train with Aditya Sachdeva at the Siri Fort complex. With elder brothers and sisters who have already been excelling in tennis, it becomes really helpful to get advices, opinions and tips from your own people who you can trust very well. Also, all of them having so much of experience in the field, I can be saved from a lot of errors and hazards, what they must have gone through in their careers. All of them are much better than me and I have a long way to go,” says the 18-year-old.

And it’s quite notable that whenever any kid of the family plays, family members make sure that they accompany them to the courts. Indu Bhambri, a housewife, is always besides her children to boost their confidence, while Chander Bhambri, a pathologist by profession, finds tennis a great sport and always accompanied his daughters on tours, while they were playing.

With all the kids playing the not so cheap sport, financing has been a real problem when Ankita and Sanaa were playing. But family always managed amidst the shortcomings.

“The girls never got that push, but with Yuki, it was a different scenario. He got sponsors pretty early unlike Ankita and Sanaa. For Ankita it was the most challenging, as she was the first one to start. Though Sanaa got a sponsor but that was not enough. Somehow we managed for them and they in turn made it easier for the younger kids of the family.

Ankita says, “We’ve had a tough time as a family while we were playing, with finances, sponsors. But with Yuki, we wanted everything to be perfect. We used our experience to the best so that Yuki have the best of everything.”

The siblings speak to each other every day, sharing stories, discussing tennis and listening to each other’s assessment on performance. The only two kids now playing on the professional circuit at present -- Yuki and Prerna -- are carrying the sporting legacy ahead and doing justice to the expectations too.

By Akshi Aggarwal

Indian Sports News