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India court history as Somdev does it again

delhi Updated: Nov 23, 2010 23:27 IST
Ajai Masand
Ajai Masand
Hindustan Times
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By his own admission, the men's singles final turned out to be easier than he had expected. But in the end, it's the gold that matters and Somdev Devvarman achieved it without much ado at the Aoti Tennis Centre on a sunny Tuesday afternoon to add to his doubles gold.

Not many had given Somdev — ranked 106th in the world compared to his Uzbek opponent, Denis Istomin, ranked 66 places above him — much of a chance in the summit clash, considering the Indian had two gruelling matches on Monday — the singles semifinals and the doubles final, which he and Sanam Singh had won to fetch India's first gold on the tennis court.

But the thorough professional that he is, and the fact that he was seeking revenge for his two previous losses to the same opponent, he went the distance and won the contest 6-1, 6-2 in just one hour 22 minutes.

With the Uzbek, ranked 40th on the ATP list and "trying hard to get into the Top-20", this was not the best advertisement for his game, as he committed so many unforced errors that even the scorers would have lost count after sometime.

Istomin did show flashes of brilliance when he came near the net to pass Somdev on a few occasions, but those were just some 'flash-in-the-pan' strokes and the tall Uzbek succumbed thereafter.

For Somdev, history was beckoning him. Never before had an Indian won an individual tennis gold in Asian Games history, but Tuesday changed all that.

There were loud celebrations, the accompanying support staff was ecstatic but for the Chinese spectators, who had queued up much before the start of the final, stacked with their quota of cold drinks, sausages, food packets, hats and much more, it was disappointment.

In the end, it turned out to be a huge anti-climax with the Indian finishing off the first set in just 41 minutes, not allowing his opponent even one single opportunity to hold serve. The Uzbek didn't know what hit him as he was broken in the first, third, fifth and seventh games of the first set.

And all because he was spraying the ball all over the place and even finding it difficult to send down a few decent probing serves.

His problems were compounded by Somdev's excellent court craft and determination to give it back with renewed vengeance. Long rallies from the baseline were the order of the day and Somdev just waited for Istomin to commit errors, which he invariably did, sending low returns into the net.

Istomin's break-point conversion at 33 per cent in the first set in comparison to Somdev's 50 was abysmally low and the 29 unforced errors he committed saw him lose the set even before the crowds had warmed up to the contest.

Though he cut down on unforced errors in the second — 17 — the momentum gained by Somdev was enough to take him to gold. The second set was a replay of the first. Istomin was in self-destructive mode and he guided the Indian to the top podium finish.