A couple of weeks back Somdev Devvarman had beaten world number 16 Marin Cilic at the Wasington ATP. As we went into celebratory overdrive, his comment to this correspondent was startling: “Even a blind squirrel finds an acorn every now and then”.
It was startling for it revealed the mature head that sits on those 24 year old shoulders. It was refreshing for after a long, long time Indian tennis seems to have a number one with his feet firmly anchored. The waffle and waft of a bloated head are not for Devvarman as the man does not lose sight of the bigger picture, no matter how bright and flashy a recent stroke may have been.
It's the same rooted man who responds after becoming only the seventh Indian to qualify for a men's Grand Slam singles main draw since tennis went professional (That's Vijay Amritraj, Anand Amritraj, Ramesh Krishnan, Leander Paes, Zeeshan Ali and Mahesh Bhupathi).
“It feels special to be the first one to qualify since Leander (Paes, in 2001 Wimbledon),” said Somdev after completing a 6-3, 6-2 win over Jerzy Janowicz of Poland and making it to the US Open main draw.
“It’s been a long time coming for Indian tennis and I hope there will be more such good news in the future.”
Paes has been saying it for some time now that Devvarman is the one to watch out for. He reasserted his faith in the man with the dynamo legs: “My high of 73 on the singles rankings is a poor landmark for us to have. I have said this before and will say it again, this man will certainly go ahead of my singles ranking.
“It's been a long time coming, I have been waiting for years for it to happen.”
Paes is glad that someone finally again qualified for a singles grand slam draw.
“It's sad that we have had to wait so long. But then Somdev has the dogged ability to sweat-- a trait few others have had.”
From Devvarman there are no whoops of joy or celebration at what is after all just a small step on a long journey.
“This is not where the hard work ends as I still have a long way to go. As far as expectations are concerned, it's best to just take each match as it comes.”
It's not been a cushy ride after the high of a finals appearance at the Chennai Open this January.
“You go through ups and downs in your career. As long as you know you're working hard and on the right path it works out fine,” Devvarman again gives a peek into his solid basics on life.
No matter how far he goes at the US Open, this man's already looking beyond: “There is still a lot is left to do this year. After the US Open I will focus all my energies on our crucial Davis Cup Tie against South Africa. Hopefully that will bring even greater cheers for Indian tennis.”