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Devvarman's double success is a culmination of sound planning

sports Updated: Nov 23, 2010 22:58 IST
Ajai Masand
Ajai Masand
Hindustan Times
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Two gold medals on successive days, especially when stalwarts like Leander Paes, Mahesh Bhupathi, and even Rohan Bopanna, are nowhere around to pep up this young Indian brigade, is an achievement unparalleled in the history of Indian tennis.

But Somdev Devvaram, the 25-year-old man who took it upon himself to show the world that self-belief and hard work can move mountains, was more than making up for the absence of the ageing hotshots. After he added the second gold on Tuesday to take India's yellow metal tally to seven, the scene had to be seen to be believed. The Tri-colour fluttered all around, and when the national flag went up during the medal ceremony, there were moist eyes in the crowd.

But Somdev was composed as ever as he spoke about his exploits. "I came here with a plan, but didn't know it would work so well, especially against Istomin — who is also a dear friend —ranked much higher than me. Istomin is a good player; he has even made it to the third round of a Grand Slam. So, I did have apprehensions. And with more than 500 million people back home watching my performance, the pressure was definitely on me. But my coaching staff put in a lot of effort, and I feel great after representing the country at such a young age and winning two gold," said the boy from Assam who now stays in Chennai.

"The second half of the year has brought good tidings for me. I give credit for my success to both Sanam Singh (doubles partner here) and Karan Rastogi. What makes me all the more happy is that this young team has done the country proud."

For coach, Nandan Bal, and Somdev's personal trainer, Scott McCain, the years of hard work have borne fruit. "I feel Somdev went into the singles final as the favourite despite the Uzbek ranked much higher than him. Two gruelling matches yesterday --- the singles semifinal and doubles final --- gave him adequate preparation to take on his opponent and also get used to the vociferous crowd. Perhaps, Istomin didn't get that big-match atmosphere before and he became nervous," said McCain.

"What I like about Somdev is his speed and court coverage. His best trait is he can rescue a point. Though, he didn't play well yesterday, Somdev raised his game many notches today. He struck to a plan, hit length balls and kept Istomin back. Besides, the Uzbek played well below his level," said McCain.

For Istomin, it felt he had got out from the wrong side of the bed this morning. "It's been a long season for me. Here my performance was wavering."