Somdev looking for a winning start against Brazil

By Pragya Tiwari, IANS
Wednesday, September 15, 2010

NEW DELHI - If one thing has stood out in Somdev Devvarman’s two-year-old pro career, it is his ability to play under pressure. From a poster boy of Indian tennis to shouldering the country’s Davis Cup campaign, the 25-year-old has done enough to be feared by opponents.

He will be yet again the pivot around which the Indian Davis Cup team will revolve when they take on Brazil in the World Group play-off in Chennai this weekend.

A two-time NCAA champion, Somdev, last year played a key role in taking India to the World Group stage for the first time in 11 years by pulling off impressive wins against higher-ranked Chinese Taipei and South African players and that too in their own backyards.

He now faces a similar challenge at home and said he wants to give India a winning start in the opening day’s play.

The task, however, won’t be easy for Somdev, ranked 113, will be up against the top international players in Brazil’s Thomaz Bellucci (World No. 27) and Ricardo Mello (World No.75).

But Davis Cup has always held little regard for world rankings and Somdev, who has honed his skills on the hard courts of Chennai’s SDAT stadium and had reached the final of the 2009 ATP Chennai Open, is confident of his chances against the higher-ranked Brazilians.

“I think it’s a 50-50 tie right now. They definitely have some very solid players and we’ll have to play very well to win. It’s going to be hot in Chennai, so I hope it helps us more than it helps them,” Somdev told IANS.

“I have played Ricardo Mello before but it was a long time ago. It was in an exhibition, so we can’t really count it. It will be a good match regardless of who I play. Also, we rely a lot on our doubles and we will again be relying on them in this tie. I feel like if we can come out with a win on day one, all the pressure will be on the Brazilians.”

With Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi unbeaten in their last 23 Davis Cup appearance, a victory on the opening day will put India in a good stead.

Also, India’s second singles player Rohan Bopanna, who last year came up with a stunning performance in the tie against South Afica, will be on a high after his outstanding run in the US Open doubles where he reached the final with Pakistan’s Aisam Ul-Haq Qureshi.

Somdev believes Bopanna’s performance on Tour this year has provided India with another solid option in the doubles as well.

“With Rohan’s current form, I know he will be confident going into his singles match. He sure opens our options in doubles. He has had a really good year, he has won a couple of Tour events, made quarters at Wimbledon and now the final of US Open. He’s going to be a tough guy to beat the rest of the year,” he said.

Somdev did not have a good stint in this year’s Grand Slams, making first round exits at French Open, Wimbledon and US Open but he did break in the top-100 ranks in August, the first Indian to do so since Leander Paes 11 years ago.

“I feel I have had a very consistent year and have won a lot more matches this year so far than I did last year. I cracked the top-100 this season for the first time in my career. I am improving a lot and hopefully I can have some better results the rest of the year.”

Somdev’s early exit at the Flushing Meadows, however, proved to be a blessing in disguise as it allowed him to have a longer break at home.

“It was the first time in more than three years that I was at home for more than four days. It’s been really nice to get some home cooked meals. Both my siblings made it here too, so it was fun hanging out with the family. I worked out a bit to stay in shape and I spent a lot of time playing with all my dogs. So I’ve really had a good break,” said Somdev, who is based in Virginia, US.

The Indian has his target set for the remaining year and hopes to be a constant in the top-100 charts.

“I would like to finish the year in the top-80. I feel like if I keep working hard that goal is within my reach for sure. I also plan on playing quite a lot around Asia after the Davis Cup tie. Hopefully by next year I can play many more Tour events and consistently be in the top-75.”

(Pragya Tiwari can be contacted at

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