Yuki Bhambri is aghast at being excluded from the Indian government’s Target Olympic Podium Scheme, or TOPS, after preferring to play in the US Open over the Asian Games, reported PTI. The All India Tennis Association is even trying to convince the Sports Ministry to reconsider its decision, the report added.

The AITA had allowed Bhambri, India’s top-ranked singles player, to skip the quadrennial continental event as he stands a chance of making it to the main draw of the US Open. Playing at Grand Slams is crucial to secure ranking points, which could earn Bhambri a direct entry into the Tokyo Olympics in 2020.

“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,” Bhambri said. “Challenging myself against the best in the world at the US Open is the best way to prepare for that.”

He added, “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. 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.”

Bhambri is currently ranked 84th in the world and if he manages to keep himself in the top 100 till the US Open cut-off date, he will get direct entry to compete at Flushing Meadows. An appearance at the US Open would secure the 25-year-old a minimum prize of $50,000 (Rs 33 lakh).

Bhambri had lost in the first rounds of the Australian Open and French Open earlier this year. Even if he loses at the same stage at Wimbledon and the US Open, it would give him enough money to travel with his Australian coach Stephen Koon and a physiotherapist for the whole year.

If Bhambri makes the cut for Wimbledon and the US Open, he will become only the fourth Indian to compete in the men’s singles main draws in all four Grand Slams in a single season. Ramesh Krishnan was the first Indian to do so – and he did it four times in his career (1983, 1984, 1988, 1990). After him, it was Leander Paes, who competed in all singles Majors in 1997. Somdev Devvarman was the last Indian to do so in 2011.

“We have asked the government to reconsider the decision and include both Yuki and Leander Paes in TOPS,” AITA secretary Hironmoy Chatterjee told PTI. “We told them that Yuki needs to be in [the world’s] top 64 to earn direct qualification for Tokyo Olympics and that’s why playing at the US Open is important. They told us that when Yuki gets back to playing Davis Cup, his case would be re-examined.”

Bhambri received a monthly stipend of Rs 50,000 from the government for a few months after he was included in TOPS. He was earlier sanctioned close to Rs 20 lakh for his 2014 Asian Games preparation. Over the years, AITA and the Delhi Lawn Tennis Association have also chipped in with financial support of Rs 20 lakh.