It takes rare courage to assume the mantle of leadership and take on the national tennis body when your ranking has fallen to as low as 664 in the world. Tennis is a mind game and when your head is addled up with trying to grapple with administrators, it is a rare individual who can shut that out and come into a match focused on switching the talk mode to the racquet.
Somdev Devvarman is obviously special. Not only has he made it plain to the tennis mandarins in this country that he minces no words, he has also made it plain that he can walk the talk of being India's number one singles player, ranking be damned. After all, he only made it into the main draw here on account of a wild card.
On Tuesday, on a pleasant Chennai evening, Devvarman proved just how much rankings are just a number for a player who knows what it takes to be in the top-100 — he was ranked as high as 62 in July 2011. Devvarman took just an hour and nine minutes to make things unpleasant for the 106-placed player in the world, Jan Hajek, to announce that he had recovered from his shoulder injury and the subsequent operation, which saw him sidelined for over seven months last year.
The 6-3, 6-3 verdict screams out to the national selectors that here is a player who just can't be ignored when it comes to the nation's singles options in Davis Cup.
The intent was there from the word go as he broke in the very first game and then unleashed three aces to begin his own service game. It was as if Devvarman knew that he had to convincingly assert to the followers of Indian tennis that his shoulder is right where it needs to be.
Next up berdych
He next runs into the top seed and world number six Tomas Berdych who will be an absolutely different prospect and a far superior player than the one he faced today. Devvarman may or may not conjure magic on Thursday but he has certainly shown that he has enough firepower to spearhead India's Davis Cup challenge.
The other pleasant surprise of the day was Prakash Amritraj's triumph against the 92-ranked Guillaume Rufin with a 6-7 (4), 6-2, 6-3 scoreline in a match that lasted a sapping two hours and 23 minutes. The 29-year-old Amritraj is on a comeback and told the crowd after the match that today was just his 180th day on court after a two-year break. He has earned his place in the draw astride three wins in qualifying and seems to be quite a different player from what he was before — far more mature and relaxed out in the middle. To pull off four matches on the trot also reflects an enhanced fitness regimen.
In a shocking upset, the scratch combo and fourth-seeded pair of Leander Paes and Edouard Roger-Vasselin went down to the Thai twins Sanchai and Sonchat Ratiwatana 7-6(7), 6-1.