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Somdev enters Chennai Open final

sports Updated: Jan 10, 2009 23:39 IST
Sukhwant Basra
Sukhwant Basra
Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

The Somdev Devvarman tale at the Chennai Open continues to get merrier. It's as if this week, fortune has decided to make him its own. Fifth seed and world number 33 Rainer Schuettler found out late Friday night that his left wrist was not up to the task of playing the semifinal against Devvarman the next day. It hurt each time he tried to hit his double-fisted backhand.

Schuettler's withdrawal put the Indian into the final with an assured kitty of $37,000 as well as 150 ATP points. The haul is likely to push him into the range of 160 in the world rankings. The 6'6" third seed Croat Marin Cilic waits in the final as he bettered Marcel Granollers 6-4, 6-3. That match is going to be the toughest test that has been thrown Devvarman's way in his short tennis career.

Had play not been suspended on Wednesday, Devvarman would not have faced Carlos Moya under the sapping afternoon sun, which literally drained away the Spaniard's challenge. Then, Ivo Karlovic played what he termed the worst match of his career to spray the ball all over the court. Without taking anything away from Devvarman, his prowess has also had the blessing of the crucial and fickle deity called luck. He has come in hot from his training with Andy Roddick to nail players still struggling to find their rhythm in a new season.

Then, he has had the rookie advantage so far. He is an unknown entity. There are no precise game plans, which others have been able to formulate to take on his particular style of play. By now he is three matches old and the gaps in his game would already be popping about in the laptops of coaches on the tour. From now on, his game will be mapped and dissected.

Devvarman also faces the fearsome task of playing his first big final in front of a partisan crowd. The expectation level will be huge, the pressure on him to deliver. He has displayed rare nerve, but tomorrow the heat will be from a burner of a scale he has never felt the singe of till now. The last time an Indian won in an ATP men's singles final was way back in 1998, when Leander Paes claimed the Newport title. The hope of a nation too will rest on the lithe 23-year-old.

The strong bit going for Devvarman is that he has all along kept it simple. He's not Batman pulling out fancy gizmos suited to each threat. Instead he's been the Hulk -- barging his way through sheer dint of bulky groundstrokes. He does not make errors and he does not hit too many winners. Though, being simple may not be enough to maim Cilic, the uncomplicated fact stays that the best man to hold his nerve and serve will take the top prize of 250 points and $73,000.