That there will be a messiah is the bedrock of religion. It is this belief — that one day a special one will be unearthed — that makes the worshippers of sport persist through decades of dwindling hope. After years of false dawns that promised bloom but only deceived, now comes a man who will revolutionise the way Indian men play their tennis.
Somdev Devvarman, the 202-ranked Indian, beat world number 114 Kevin Kim 6-3, 6-3 in an hour-and-fifteen-minute exhibition of solidity from the baseline on Tuesday. This man offers the glimpse of something bigger to come. Devvarman has been making waves on the Futures tour and had offered a peek into his potential when he reached the quarters in the Washington ATP event last August. Before that, in July, he had demanded raised eyebrows when he scythed all the way through qualifiers to the title at the Lexington Challenger.
But then, the results of today are not always the best judge for the big bang of tomorrow. Rather, it is the way in which Devvarman prowls the court. On the big stage, our players quail more often than prevail. Devvarman revels. He is the first player from India who hits the heavy topspun ball that deigns boulders for quadriceps.
The legs that propel the 5'11'' 23-year-old are like hewn oak -- weathered, solid and with the ripple of muscle weaved through the spindle of speed. He does not blast away the opposition, he grinds it down. The ball whirls off his racquet, loops in deep and then snorts up rampant. That makes his groundstrokes tough to tame and in turn, allows us the hope that finally we have a player with the game to deliver in the punishing world of hardcourt tennis. Devvarman may not be beautiful to watch, but then we have had enough artists, it's time to embrace the slugger.