Asian Games: Somdev wins gold in men's singles

Updated: 23 November 2010 08:37 IST

India's Somdev Devvarman created history in Guangzhou after he won the first ever tennis gold medal in the Asian Games.


Somdev Devvarman added a historic singles gold to his men's doubles triumph with an upset win over world number 40 Denis Istomin as India rounded off its tennis campaign at the Asian Games with five medals here on Tuesday.

Second seed Somdev entered history books with his superb 6-1, 6-2 win in the final over the top seed Uzbek as no Indian had won a gold medal in the event at the Asian Games before.

Somdev, ranked 106, won his second gold in as many days at the Games as he had combined with Sanam Singh to win men's doubles event on Monday.

Just last month only Somdev had won men's singles gold at the Commonwealth Games and has been the face of India on the ATP Tour in singles for quite some time.

The gritty Indian fell on his back on the court with tears in his eyes when a forehand error by Istomin confirmed Somdev's gold medal.

"I am very, very happy to get the gold here. It's a dream come true. No one comes to an Asian Games with the intention of winning two gold medals. Representing the country gives me the greatest pleasure," said Somdev.

India had three bronze medals in men's singles to show so far at the Games with Leander Paes (Hiroshima in 1994), Mahesh Bhupathi (Bangkok in 1998) and Prahlad Srinath (Bangkok in 1998) winning them in the last decade.

In total, Somdev won three medals at this edition of the Games as he had earlier won a bronze in team event as well. India rounded off its tennis campaign with five medals, two more than what the country had got at the Doha Asian Games in 2006.

At Doha, Leander Paes had won two gold medals -- in men's doubles with Mahesh Bhupathi and in mixed doubles with Sania Mirza.

Sania had won a sliver in the women's singles.

Somdev broken his rival's serve thrice in the opening set to clinch it 6-1 when Istomin, ranked 44th as compared to the Indian?s 106th going into the event, hit his forehand shot over the baseline.

Somdev, who handled the pressure of playing the all-important gold medal match much better than his rival, staved off an early break attempt by Istomin in the second set by hanging on to his serve grimly in the third game of the second set, got an early break and then dropped his serve immediately.

But getting a second wind, the Indian raced away from 3-2 to 6-2 by breaking Istomin twice more, in the sixth and eighth games, to complete a memorable outing at this South Chinese city.

Somdev's golden double in the men's individual event is the first time the feat has been accomplished in the Games history in 24 years after Korean Yoo Jin Sun performed the coveted job in 1986 at home in Seoul.

Somdev, who came into the Games after guiding India into the Davis Cup World Group with a come-from-behind 3-2 stunning victory over Brazil in Chennai followed by his golden run in the Commonwealth Games singles event.

"The second half of 2010 has been spectacular for me. I broke into the top 100 and I got two gold medals here. But I can't differentiate between that victory over Brazil and this. I treat all of them on par as I consider myself fortunate to represent my country at this young age. All of them are memorable moments for me," said the suave Somdev.

He also credited the entire team, its coaching staff and the All Indian Tennis Association for paving the way for this excellent show by the Indian squad here.

Indian coach Nandan Bal sees the performance of the team as a turning point for Indian tennis and a triumph for the system that has been put in place by the AITA.

"We have Somdev, Karan (Rastogi) and Sanam (Singh) who are all very good singles players. I can say now there is a system in place put in by the AITA to produce top players.

"Earlier it was the inspiration from a family member that produced the players ? like the Krishnans, Amritrajs, Natekars (Badminton ace Nandu and his tennis playing son Gaurav ) and Paes (Hockey Olympian Vece and his tennis playing son Leander," said the former India Davis Cup player.

The final never rose to expected heights as the Uzbek looked nervous and served a plethora of double faults (total 8), some of them at crucial stages, and also committed 46 unforced errors that buried his chances.

Somdev just hung in there, hitting the ball deep by sticking to the plan chalked out by his American personal coach Scott Lawrence McCain, who has been with the team for the last two weeks, and the strategy worked wonders.

The Indian served five aces and also hit as many service winners and was the steadier in ground strokes from the base line, though whenever his rival came to the net Somdev inevitably lost the point, despite hitting a few superb passes.

Somdev broke the Uzbek's very first serve, the first of the match, to set the tone very much in his favour. And then in a long-drawn out battle to hold his serve, Istomin saved four break points in the third game and was broken for the second time in the match after deuce was called eight times.

A second double-fault followed by a backhand into the tram lines put Somdev 3-0 in front. He broke again to lead 5-0 and had a minor hiccup by dropping his serve in the sixth before four successive forehand errors by Istomin gave the seventh game and the set on a platter to the Indian.

Somdev started on the wrong foot in the second set, with a double fault ? the third and last he committed in the clash, but managed to hold serve. He was put under pressure in the third game, like he himself had done to his rival in the previous set, but the difference was that Somdev came out the winner by holding his serve for a 2-1 lead.

Istomin dropped his serve in the next game with a double fault when facing a break point but broke back immediately to restore parity to raise visions on a fight back which was not to be.

Another double fault and two ground stroke errors put the Uzbek down 0-40 and he once again dropped his delivery by hitting a forehand into the net which helped Somdev take a 4-2 lead.

Sensing his golden chance, the Indian upped his game, held on to his serve for a 5-2 lead before applying the decisive and final break when Istomin hit another forehand into the tramlines, to leave Somdev flat on the court with disbelief.

Somdev later covered his body with the Indian tri colour and was greeted by a big applause from the large Chinese audience.

His personal coach McCain said later that what Somdev has done over the last 5-6 months has been "outstanding" and called his feat in the Games as "extremely good".

"Where Somdev excels is fighting back from a difficult position but what he does not do is going for the kill when on top. He did that very well today. What he has done over the last 5-6 months has been outstanding, breaking into the top 100 and fighting back from 0-2 down against Brazil to help India into the World Group after Lee and Hesh did the early spadework. And his double gold here," said McCain.

McCain also said that the Indian champion benefited by playing in the doubles final with Sanam and defeating the host duo of Maoxin Gong and Zhe Li 6-3 6-7 (4) 10-8 (super tie break) yesterday and winning the gold with Sanam as it gave him the opportunity to soak in the atmosphere.

"That helped him as he knew the conditions of playing in front of a big, hostile crowd by playing in the doubles final yesterday in which Sanam played outstanding tennis. He (Sanam) is going to be a very good player. Istomin played as Somdev did yesterday. I told him to keep the ball at length and that plan worked," said McCain.

Topics : Tennis Somdev Devvarman
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