The Somdev Devvarman story keeps getting better in Chennai. Unlike last year, when he did not have much to lose, the 24-year-old came into the tournament with the burden of crowd expectations and defending his 150 ranking points this week.
But once he had shaken off the early nerves, Somdev didn’t let any of that matter. He stayed on par with one of the most experienced sluggers on tour, Rainer Schuettler, before dismissing the 85th ranked German 7-5, 6-2 in the first round at the Chennai Open on Tuesday evening. He will run into Serbian fourth seed Janko Tipsarevic in the next round on Wednesday.
Trained and chiselled at the University of Virginia, the Indian is in touch with the times. Solidity and athleticism rule the age of hard courts, and Somdev is learning both.
His first round match against Schuettler wasn’t overwhelming, neither was the German’s challenge. A regular visitor to India, Schuettler failed to get any rhythm and was beaten by a man with legs almost ten years younger than his own. The German only tried to mix things up and come to the net towards the end as a last resort, and was able to disconcert Somdev. But he had left a little too much for a little too late.
A finalist here in 2009, Somdev did not get off to the best of starts, slipping 0-2 and 2-5 in the first set. But he came back to win seven straight games and pushed the German farther away from the finish line.
“The first two games were really nerves,” he said later. “But once I had got it level to 2-2 I was feeling more confident. When I lost serve at 2-3 it was only because I played poorly, and I knew he did not have much to do with it. I knew I was just one break down and it was just a question of me executing my shots. I did not try to overplay.”
With Schuettler off his game, Somdev could still stick to his limitations and wriggle out of the match.