ICON Somdev Devvarman has brought the much needed hope back to Indian tennis. NANDITA SRIDHAR
It was Somdev Devvarman’s sense of balance that made the Chennai Open a breeding ground of hope. Indian sport has seen talent struggle to balance itself with perspective, which is why hopes were raised when Somdev kept his head despite the weeklong madness. Somdev’s aggression on the tennis court and his sense of proportion off it were admirable. The 23-year-old impressed with his irreverential manner on the court. The understated brilliance of his serve set things up for his proactive counter-punching game to flourish. Technically there are weaknesses in his game to work on, such as the inability to adjust against someone with a big game. But signs point towards a player who can defy Indian tennis’s stories of forgotten promises.
“This is just one tournament, one match. There is still a lot of work to do and I will not be judging myself based on how I performed at the Chennai Open. I know I will be losing a lot of matches this year, but if I deliver results, the rankings will take care of themselves. “As far as this tournament goes, I know that I’ve been lucky to get the draw I did. I came in as a wildcard, and I could easily have been drawn against Nikolay Davydenko in the first round. I’m happy with what I’ve done here and I’m confident, but I think we need to put things in perspective as well,” said Somdev during the tournament.
The time Somdev spent in the American College circuit has shaped his path towards turning professional. As a University of Virginia student, Somdev claimed the National Collegiate Athletic Association tennis championship titles two years in a row, defeating the likes of John Isner. The NCAA is the biggest collegiate tennis event in the world that has featured players such as Jimmy Connors. Despite his success on the tennis court, Somdev stressed on the importance of a degree even for a professional tennis player. “My education was very important for me. I wanted to make sure I got my degree there. Once I finished that, I was itching to get back fulltime on court.
Somdev’s efforts have come in for praise from Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi. While Leander was confident a “good clean boy like Somdev was the future of Indian tennis,’ Bhupathi added that “a lot was expected of the 23-year-old since he turned pro last year, which he is fulfilling.”Having broken into the top-200 in the ATP rankings, Somdev’s immediate focus, as Ramesh Krishnan put it, should be on moving up in the rankings. As he put it himself, the journey from promising player to a chapter of success in Indian tennis, has only just begun.
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