Chennai Open: Somdev back to where his story began

  • Sharmistha Chaudhuri, Hindustan Times, Chennai
  • Updated: Jan 04, 2015 06:27 IST

The 2009 run was a fairy tale - the rookie who almost captured an ATP singles title in front of a home crowd. The glitch came in the form of reigning US Open champion Marin Cilic who decided to play the villain and hamper the script.

Since then, Somdev Devvarman hasn't had much luck getting beyond the second round. Last year, a shocking loss to qualifier and local boy Ramkumar Ramanathan in the first round had him leave the city of Chennai in a huff. Yet, there's no doubt, Chennai always has a soft corner for Somdev Devvarman.

As the 29-year-old brushed up his skills on centre court at the SDAT Stadium in Chennai on Saturday afternoon, the photographers couldn't help but aim their lenses on the World No. 138. There were autograph-hunters in plenty though many had their mobiles ready as selfies are the in-thing. From a high of 62 in July 2011, injuries and not-so-good performances have caused his ranking to plummet. But Devvarman is known for his tenacity, the off-court regime makes sure he never lets a ball go.

"I feel I'm in good shape. I have been working on my game in the off season," said the wild card entrant during the draw ceremony of the 20th edition of the Chennai Open. Last month, he spent a week training with legendary coach Tony Roche in Kolkata. The coach of multiple Grand Slam winners felt Devvarman needed to beef up his serve and forehand. All these years, his strong baseline game, the fact that he runs after every ball, has helped him beat higher-ranked players.

His first opponent in this year's Chennai Open is old foe Yen-Hsun Lu, seeded sixth. The World No. 38 from the Chinese Taipei has lost to him previously but that doesn't mean Devvarman can take the Asian Games silver medallist lightly. Ramkumar, the other wild card entry, has drawn Japan's Tatsuma Ito in the opener.

The past season, after a high of winning the $100,000 Delhi Open in February, Devvarman came close to success only in September, making the finals of the singles and doubles at the Shanghai Challenger.

Unlike many who shift to doubles as age catches up, Devvarman has no such plans. It's hard to believe he will turn 30 next month. "Once you make the top 100, you always try to get back into it. For me it's a similar goal," he says confidently. And what better than starting the climb from Chennai, the place where his story began.

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