The going just got tougher for India’s number one tennis player. But it’s a challenge that Somdev Devvarman and the rest of the tennis pack crave for --- to take on Roger Federer. The Indian has been drawn to meet the 16-time Grand Slam champion in the first round of the Dubai Open on Tuesday.
“I was actually a little amused,” says Somdev. “I was telling a friend of mine how it would be fun to play Federer in the first round of Dubai. Lo and behold when I landed here (Dubai) I was told that I was drawn to play him. Obviously, once the news sunk in, the nervousness and excitement set in.
“I have definitely worked really hard on my game and fitness in the off-season and to see the results showing so early in the year is a great confidence booster for me. I definitely feel I belong at this level and will not shy away from putting in the hard work to make sure I stay here.”
Somdev had a solid couple of hours of practice in Dubai on Monday, and is hoping not to get too overawed on Tuesday when he stands across the net against a player he regards “the greatest player in the history of tennis”.
“There will definitely be some butterflies in the stomach going into the match but I think I will settle down in a couple of games and then focus on executing my game plan and fighting hard,” he said. “It is a great opportunity for me to play against the greatest player in the history of tennis and I’m going to go and give it everything I got.”
Despite a few rocky weeks first up, Somdev reached his career high ranking of 80 earlier this month as he made it to the final of the South Africa Open in Johannesburg. And while a meeting with Federer will trim down his chances of continuing in that vein to almost nil, it’s an experience Somdev and the Indian tennis fans will savour.
“I don’t have any expectations. I want to enjoy the moment, work hard for every point, make it hard for my opponent and in the process find a way to win the match.”