Somdev rises to shine brightly

Tennis

Somdev rises to shine brightly

Leander Paes had a bright season

The year 2009 for Indian tennis was the most memorable in recent times. The last few years had all been about Sania Mirza, and rightly so, as the Hyderabadi trode the path that no other Indian woman tennis player had ever managed.
Sania began the year on a great note clinching the Australian Open mixed doubles crown with Mahesh Bhupathi for her maiden Slam, but fell away as the year wore on.
In fact, in Melbourne India put up their strongest performance at a Grand Slam and Bhupathi was the leading light here. The Bangalore-based pro reached the men’s doubles final while winning the mixed contest but did not have a great year from then on.

Sania’s slide coincided with the rise of Somdev Devvarman and the resurgence of Leander Paes.

The veteran combined with Czech Lukas Dlouhy to win the French and the US Open doubles titles besides reaching the mixed doubles finals of two other Slams.

Devvarman’s progress
Paes, for the last two decades, has been the saviour of Indian tennis with his heroics in Davis Cup and it was about time India found the right replacement for the 36-year-old. The nation’s prayers appear to have been answered with Devvarman showing all the signs of taking the legacy forward.

It all started in January when Devvarman produced a stirring display of tennis to reach his first ever ATP Tour event final. Along the way, his scalps included former World No 1 Carlos Moya and the big-serving Croat Ivo Karlovic.

If the year began on a sweet note for Devvarman, it ended on an even better way for the 24-year-old who not only made it to the main draw of the US Open singles through qualifiers, but also made it to the second-round. His most cherished moment, however, was to come in South Africa where he led India to a sensational win in Johannesburg in the Davis Cup World Group play-off to power India into the elite World Group after a gap of 11 years.

Rohan Bopanna also played his part in India’s rise, posting an important victory in the second singles. The Bangalorean enjoyed minor successes in the season, mostly in partnership with Pakistan’s Aisam Qureshi on the doubles circuit.
Sandwiched in between was the emergence of another big hope in the form of teenager Yuki Bhambri, who clinched the Australian Open junior title. The title was the first by an Indian since Leander Paes’ Wimbledon and US Open titles many seasons ago.

The Delhi lad then concentrated on ITF Futures events to enhance his ATP ranking and wasn’t the worse for his decision. Later on, the 17-year-old made his Davis Cup debut, although in a dead rubber, against South Africa and won his match against the much higher-ranked Izak Van der Merwe to provide the perfect icing on the cake.

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