Friday, June 24, 2011

Somdev Devvarman

Somdev Devvarman

Somdev Devvarman, playing a late evening match on Tuesday, became the first Indian since Leander Paes in 2001 to win a round in the men's singles draw of this prestigious grass-court event.

The gritty 26-year-old, ranked 68 in the world, moved into Round 2 when his German opponent,Denis Gremelmayr, threw in the towel midway through the second set with the Indian leading 6-4, 4-2.

Gremelmayr, aged 29 and ranked 110, said he was sick. "You've got to feel for your opponent," Somdev said after the match. "He told me he was sick. I didn't know that going into the match. It must feel terrible for him to go out that way. I would've liked to finish the match, but you can't do much about that, can you? I liked the way I was playing. I was enjoying myself out there."

Somdev, who plays 18th-seeded Russian Mikhail Youzhny next on Thursday, is not a man of statistics, however. Fittingly, he was unimpressed when told that he was the first Indian in a decade to win a round in the men's draw here. "I've established myself as a singles player on the Tour. I have my own identity. When I started, it was exciting to be the first one since Leander Paes, but now it's different. I'm looking to make progress. I'm not playing singles in anyone's shadow anymore. I think Leander will be the first to say that."

In fading light on Tuesday, Somdev displayed a fine range of racket skills against Gremelmayr. He used the slice freely, chipped a few times and came in on his serve and returns. The German, who showed few signs of injury or illness in the first set, however, let out steam at will, even mimicking the US-based Indian. Somdev broke Gremelmayr in the 10th game to wrap the set.

The Indian then did well to hold serve in the opening game of the second set in which he faced four breakpoints. That hold effectively broke the German's nerve. Gremelmayr then called for a medical timeout. He was broken again in the sixth game after which he approached the chair to say he couldn't continue the match.

Somdev, however, preferred to look at the positives. "I have improved my game, extended my base, I like where I am," he said. "I'm doing different things - slicing, coming into the net much more than I have before and creating more opportunities for myself on the court. I'm moving well too. Of course, the key on grass is to be able to hold serve.

You don't always do it easily, but you have to stay in the fight. It's important to stay aggressive on your returns too. When you make a good return on grass, you've got to make it count. I have also learnt to be patient with myself."

Indian ready for Youhzny

Somdev's second-round opponent Youzhny, who turns 29 later in the week, is a tough nut to crack. The pair have met once, in a Davis Cup tie last year, when the Russian ran away with the match.

"He's a very dangerous player. He's very quick and a great counter-puncher. I'm also a very different player from when I played him in the Davis Cup," Somdev said.