Somdev lifts ‘gloom’, wins India’s only gold | sports | Hindustan Times
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Somdev lifts ‘gloom’, wins India’s only gold

With close to 5,000 pairs of eyes staring him down as he walked into the centre-court to play the singles final, Somdev Devvarman seemed unabashedly confident and basked in the electricity which pervaded at the arena. Tomojit Basu reports.

sports Updated: Oct 11, 2010 01:57 IST
Tomojit Basu

With close to 5,000 pairs of eyes staring him down as he walked into the centre-court to play the singles final, Somdev Devvarman seemed unabashedly confident and basked in the electricity which pervaded at the arena.

His Australian opponent, 234-ranked 21-year old Greg Jones, was completely outclassed 6-4, 6-2. The poster-boy from Tripura read Jones his last rites in an hour and 27 minutes.

In the first set, things were largely even out there. With a big first serve consistently delivered at 200+ km/hr and an accurate kick-serve to double-up along with steady ground strokes, Jones matched Devvarman shot for shot.

The Indian, ranked 97, stuck well, engaging in long rallies and coming up with a big serve now and then. The 25-year old, who stuck to his grinding defensive baseline routine, broke the Aussie's serve in the seventh game before consolidating to go up 5-3.

Tirelessly manning the baseline, it didn't look like Devvarman, who had beaten Australian Matt Ebden to make it to the final, had had a trying week. Ultimately, a well-placed backhand volley followed up with a smash gave Devvarman the first set 6-4.

The swift movement had worn down Jones's legs and an injury break was on the cards at the beginning of the second when he stumbled while attempting a half-volley. The scene was eerily akin to the top-seeded Indian's first outing at the Commonwealth Games (CWG) against Bahamian Devin Mullings who had given Devvarman a run for his money before a cramp had hampered his fortune.

To his credit, Jones didn't buckle despite being broken in the first game of the second set. He mixed up his returns, throwing in some clever dinks and underspun balls that caught Devvarman on the wrong foot. But, his depleted play was never going to be enough.

Somdev capitalised on the Aussie's weakened disposition, breaking Jones in the first and third game, holding his own with ease.

The stentorian crowd cheered each of Devvarman's piercing grunts as most of Jones's returns found their way into the net.

After being broken in the fifth game, it was all but curtains for the Australian. An ace earned Devvarman a match-point but the tense agony would be prolonged as the game stretched to a deuce where Jones broke for the first time in the match before consolidating.

Finally, the 6-2 second set win came through and the Indian collapsed in a sweaty heap, a mixture of weariness and joy with the audience on its feet at the realisation that India had the first ever Commonwealth men's champion.