Every summer he would board a train from Madras with his family to the quaint town of Agartala in Tripura. For Somdev Devvarman that one month spent with cousins and friends was an opportunity to be the mischievous child he was while growing up, rather than the promising young tennis player he was touted as.
Later this week, after four long years, Devvarman will once again be on his way to Agartala. This time, however, he will go back as a two-time NCAA champion, and India's No.1 tennis player.
“It's been long, really long since I last met my family,” says Devvarman, his eyes gazing out of the window, as if reminiscing the wonderful time he'd have. “It's sometimes lonely in Virginia and this time I just can't wait to see them and go back to Agartala.”
From Tripura to Virginia, Devvarman's journey from a simple boy to a humble and hardworking young man and a tenacious performer has been extremely inspirational. And it has not been easy.
Devvarman lived a comfortable life in Chennai before joining the University of Virginia in 2004, a move that would change his life forever. From waking up early and training for almost eight hours to cooking his own food, he was living life the hard way.
“Though cooking is something I don't do too well, I go about it with the least bit of fuss,” he says with a sheepish smile.
Related to the royal family of Tripura, Devvarman says, though he misses his parents, he is glad they don’t interfere in his professional decisions. “I prefer my family being disconnected. They support me, care about me yet they don't really force me to do anything,” he says.
A huge fan of the Dave Matthews band, Som feels his legs, mind and heart will get him into top-50 one day. “Fit legs, strong head and playing from the heart gets you to your goal,” he says.
Does being called 'the next big star' of Indian tennis put pressure on this carefree soul? "It doesn't put any pressure. I don't play for that. It doesn't make any difference whether I am No.1 or No.8 in India. My goal is to be the best possible player," he says nonchalantly.
Ranked 204, Devvarman has a lot to prove in 2009. Breaking into the top 100 remains his biggest challenge for now. But Devvarman has no misconceptions about his future. "I will go as far as my game takes me," he says, before breaking into that arresting smile of his.