Somdev knows time has come for him to deliver

Somdev knows time has come for him to deliver

Somdev Devvarman

Somdev Devvarman is fast getting accustomed to the pressure of being India's No.1 tennis player. A year on the professional circuit, the 24-year-old has seen the highs and lows in equal measure.

If the Chennai Open success and later his Davis Cup heroics in the Chinese Taipei made him the poster boy of Indian tennis overnight, he has soon realised what it takes to be a journeyman. One thing is for sure, he is not willing to make a living playing doubles like some of his compatriots, he wants to rough it out in the singles.

The University of Virginia graduate and twice National Collegiate of Athletic Association (NCAA) champion reflects with gumption the need to put defeats in perspective. He is aware that, at 24, he needs to make most of the opportunities that come his way as the time is fast running out.

"I know this is the time for me to perform and I am up for the challenge. I am happy that Kevin (Anderson) and I qualified for the Wimbledon doubles. I know I am good at it (doubles) but it is the singles that I play better and I am going to stick to it," said Somdev.

"I was to debut in Grand Slams with the US Open last year but that could not happen. I am really looking forward to it this year. I have always enjoyed playing in the US and I am hopeful of a good performance this time around."

The way Somdev's ranking graph has shown an upward streak despite his erratic performance on the circuit, a couple of good performance in the coming months can see him make the cut at the last Grand Slam of the year.

"It's kind of funny that even though I had been losing, my rankings were going up," muses Somdev, who touched the career best ranking of 129 last week.

"But I know that I need to get back to the winning ways and earlier the better. There have been ups and downs but there has been nothing wrong in the way I have been doing things. In fact, I have been playing well and I don't think I need to change my basic game or the approach.

"Yes, the pressure of expectations will always be there and I feel privileged to have experienced that. I would be crazy if I say I do not like all the attention I have been getting."

The recent months have been nothing short of an emotional roller-coaster ride for the US-based Indian whose only win in a challenger came in Lexington last year. But the "counter-puncher" as he likens himself to be called, is far from being ruffled.

"The losses in a way have kept me grounded," he says. "Tennis, besides being a physical sport, also requires a lot of self-belief. You play top players all the time and a tough loss can be upsetting.

"I have played a lot of close matches in recent months, a lot of set points, match points, and lots of tie-breakers. And after a point, all that takes a toll on you. But I have dealt with them fine.

"I was missing home, my parents, my dog. So I decided to take a break after Wimbledon. And hopefully when I return to the circuit this time, I will be able to turn things around."

Next up for Somdev is the challenger tournament in Aptos, California, later this month besides the Kennedy Funding Invitational, an exhibition tournament in New York, that begins Wednesday and will see participation of the likes of Andre Agassi.

"I will continue to mix my Challenger events with the Tour play. I believe I have it in me to compete at that level," he said.

The youngster is looking forward to India's crucial Davis Cup tie in South Africa in September, where he will be playing against his doubles partner and good friend Anderson.

"Kevin and I have been bitter rivals since the university days. We both have played each other a lot of times. Both the teams know each other well, so it should be a good contest. I am going to be in Johannesburg a few days in advance to get used to the conditions."

Somdev knows that the time has come for him to pull off both his singles in a Davis Cup tie. He did that in Chinese Taipei and there is no better place to do it again than at Johannesburg.

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