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Somdev does the incredible

sports Updated: Aug 30, 2009 01:03 IST
Deepti Patwardhan

It was about time. Not only for Somdev Devvarman, but also for Indian men’s tennis to enter the Grand Slam league.

Late on Saturday night Devevarman qualified for the US Open main draw by beating Jerzy Janowicz of Poland 6-3, 6-2 in the final qualifying round. His feat makes him the first Indan men’s player to qualify for a singles Grand Slam main draw since Leander Paes for the 2001 Wimbledon.

After just over a year on the professional circuit, Somdev is knocking heavily on the doors of the big stage. The Indian was leading 6-3, 5-2 over Janowicz on Friday and was serving for the match to cross over the threshold when bad weather called off play. Though his match was scheduled first on court, a thunderstorm delayed proceedings on the final day of qualifying. Only three matches were completed on the day.

Somdev, the double NCAA champion, turned pro in June last year and has grown steadily. After winning three ITF Futures and an ATP Challenger event in Lexington in quick succession, he made the big leap at the Chennai Open earlier this year, making it to the finals.

The Indian made it to the second round of the Australian Open qualifying and was only a step away from making it to the French Open. But the experience and finesse of Brazilian Marcos Daniels proved too much to handle on Parisian clay.

With the Grand Slams making the final stop of the year on the US hardcourts, Somdev, who has enjoyed much of his success in this country, flourished. Save a tough second round, being extended to three sets by Dutchman Igor Sijsling, the Indian has been pretty impressive. While Janowicz, ranked 229 to Somdev’s 161, was never meant to be a threat, the manner in which the 24-year-old rose to the occasion signals a new beginning for Indian tennis.

By qualifying he is assured of $19,000 (9.25 lakh) as prize money.