Somdev's feat makes Akhtar Ali proud

India's Somdev Devvarman, left, celebrates with teammates

"It's a proud moment for me that a boy whom I coached for about three years before he moved to Chennai and US has helped India qualify for the World Group," Ali said about Somdev's historic win last night in Johannesburg.
After picking up the racquet, nine-year-old Somdev was taught the basics of the game by Ali at Calcutta South Club when his father, then an income tax employee, was posted here.
"He was very hardworking and disciplined. Having come from a small town, he had the right attitude unlike the boys who come from cities. His sincerity has taken him where he is now," Ali told PTI.
Somdev came back from two sets down to beat Rik de Voest 3-6, 6-7, 7-6, 6-2, 6-4 in four hours and 38 minutes in the first reverse singles to give India a winning 3-1 lead over South Africa in the World Group play-off.
"I am very happy, India beat South Africa without Lee-Hesh (Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi). With Yuki (Bhambri) coming up, (Rohan) Bopanna doing well, we have a bright future in the trio," he said.

The former Davis Cupper, however, said Somdev was not a product of India as his coaching at senior level was in the US.
"There is a lot of difference between junior and senior tennis. At junior-level, the focus is on foundation and the mental aspect. Somdev trained in the US after his initial coaching in Kolkata and Chennai. He is not a product of India," said Ali.
Former greats Naresh Kumar and Jaidip Mukerjea also hailed Somdev's achievement.
"Full credit to Somdev, it's a good day for Indian tennis. But don't forget Bopanna played a crucial role in the playoff. He should concentrate on singles," said Naresh Kumar.

"It's a great achievement for India as we have qualified for the World Group. I am also impressed with Bopanna for beating the South African No 1 at home," Mukerjea said.

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