The thing with top players is that their racquets unleash a ball that's several clicks quicker and heavier than the rest of the bunch. To tame them, the journeymen have to raise their game to a different level altogether.
Regulation tennis doesn't work. And when Somdev Devvarman walked out on court here on Thursday, he not only failed to raise his level, he also seemed to have misplaced his 'A' game.
In what has to be his worst outing at the Chennai Open, Devvarman was drubbed 3-6, 1-6 by world number six Tomas Berdych who spent just five minutes over an hour to deliver the verdict.While Berdych, in patches, displayed just why he is considered a contender to break into the exclusive men's club that has seen just five guys winning a Grand Slam singles over the last eight years, Devvarman hardly tested him. Short balls allowed the Czech to tee off while limited exploitation of angles only made it all the more easier.
Some people in the tennis federation would be actually pleased at the result as Devvarman is considered an upstart in those circles on account of his mail questioning the way All India Tennis Association functions.
With this loss, his voice loses the punch it needs to bring about the changes he and his fellow players are demanding in the Davis Cup squad. However, if one was to presume that the off-court hassles had clouded his head and taken the sting out of his game, the man himself does not think so.
"My performance definitely did not have anything to do with what has been going on off court. All that does not affect me," he clarified.
But not one to mince words, he said it plain: "It was a poor performance against a far superior player. It was a terrible off day and most disappointing."
It was obvious that Devvarman needs far more matches under his belt before he gets back to the level he was but even now he still looks the best out of the Indian singles contenders.
Unforced errors and tentative play don't really add up to upsets of top-10 players and with both burdening his outing, Devvarman was never in with a real chance today.
He needed to take far more chances and go for the big winners; instead he allowed Berdych to become overwhelmingly dominant as the match went on.
There are days in an athlete's career when nothing works. This Thursday in Chennai, Devvarman ran into that wall.
This is not turning out to be a great week for our doubles proponents as well. While Leander Paes faltered in his very first round, it was the turn of Rohan Bopanna and his US partner Rajeev Ram today.
The pair of Stanislas Wawrinka and Benoit Paire came back from a horrible beginning to oust the third seeded pair 0-6, 6-4, 10-1. It has not been the most opportune beginning to the season for the pair which plans to play together for the whole season this year.
In the last match of the day, top seeds Mahesh Bhupathi and Daniel Nestor were too, shown the door by unseeded Raven Klaasen and Nicholas Monroe 4-6, 5-7.