The 200-barrier has been impossible to breach. Exactly ten years after Leander Paes peaked in his singles career, Somdev Devvarman has come knocking.
The 23-year-old backed some of his early promise to reach the top of Indian tennis rankings and is a step away from entering the top-200 club. Somdev has risen to 201 on the ATP charts, overtaking Prakash Amritraj as the No.1 player in India.
The speed with which he has been able to get there has been impressive. That this has come from a scant 12 weeks on the tour makes it all the more special. After adding the second NCAA title to his name, Somdev finally hit the road.
The youngster made a seamless transition to the pro-tour, winning three tournaments, including an ATP Challenger event in Lexington, USA, on the trot. The intense physical regimen at the University of Virginia helped him as did the intense discipline that was enforced as far as training went. "Best legs on a junior player for ages. What sets him apart is his work ethic and discipline. Watch, he will soon overtake the others," Leander Paes had told HT during the Davis Cup encounter against Uzbekistan at Delhi in February.
By itself, on a world stage where teenage prodigies are the order of the day, the achievement may lose its importance. But for a tennis order that has addled in the realms of mediocrity for a decade, Somdev's rise is significant. Somdev has also been sensible enough to keep himself out of the two camps in Indian tennis. He turned down concrete offers from both Bhupathi and Paes' management agencies to shape up his career and instead went on to sign with a relatively unknown American company - Mamba. The move has paid off as Mamba has assured him of blanket support in terms of monetary requirement to move from just another one to being the one.