It's all about the legs really. In pro tennis, if you don't have them, it's 'tough'. Ask Somdev Devvarman's trainer, Milos Galecic, the man behind the world No 96's legs.
Somdev has often been criticised for not having a big weapon but what a layman fails to realise is the amount of trouble the man can give to his opponents, thanks to those tireless legs and relentless ground strokes. "I try to make it a physical battle among the big hitters trying to run down every ball," is how the 29-year-old puts it.
"It's no doubt that today tennis is very physical. With advances in sports science, you have players playing late into their careers, week after week," said Galecic on the sidelines of the ONGC-GAIL Delhi Open.
The Serb has been associated with Somdev since the beginning of the Indian's pro career. "We are not wizards. To make it through the grind, one needs to have a base level of fitness and work ethic. Somdev has both. He is fit and strong enough to outlast his opponent. He's been playing at a stretch since Davis Cup (January last week). Then he went to Chennai, Kolkata and now here. Many give off their maximum effort one day but fail to recover and do it three days in a row."
Keenly watching every match Somdev plays, the tall Serb seems happy with his friend's output on court. "The bulk of the work is done off season. There are track workouts, gyming, strengthening… at tournaments it's about maintaining the shape and recovering for the next match. What Somdev has been doing recently is minimising time on court, finishing off matches in straight sets," explained Galecic.
The only Indian to have broken into the top 100 in recent years, what does Somdev have which compatriots lack? "Fitness," pat came the reply. "There are two aspects – one, is willingness to accept that and second, investing. I began working with Som when he was 250-300 in the rankings. At that point, funds are a problem but for Som, the investment has paid off. I don't see others with the same commitment."
Had a shoulder injury not hampered Somdev's career in late 2011, he could have bettered his ranking of 62. Now that he's getting his ranking back up, the road ahead is long. "To get to the top 100 is difficult, but to stay there even more so. The question is how one is improving as a tennis player, how ready one is to play that high level, step up to the challenge," he said with a shrug.
Somdev leaves on Sunday for Dubai, an ATP 500 event, where he's got a wildcard. "He plays Delpo (Juan Martin del Potro of Argentina) in the first round. The level of competition is very tough because at that level players are looking at the bigger tournaments. One has to be fit and ready for the test instead of going out there and then struggling," Galelic smiled before heading off to grab a late lunch.