Somdev Devvarmans main draw spot in the United States Open has not come without some hiccups. He was a set and break up in his final qualifying round against Britains James Ward,a debutant at Flushing,when he lost six games in a row and began the decider by losing his serve. Somdevs coach of four years,Scott McCain,says the players lower back injury could have played a part. Excerpts:
Despite being in leading situations,Somdev ends up playing a lot of three-setters,like his final qualifying round against Ward. Do you think that it is an area that needs work?
Actually Somdev had hurt his lower back while playing (Alexandr) Dolgopolov in (Washington) DC. He played the next match against (John) Isner in great discomfort. We got an MRI and other tests. It turned out to be a strain on the right side. That time his movement was affected a lot. He couldnt even bend over to touch his knees the next day. So he took the following 8-9 days off. We resumed practice only last Monday. Knowing that,it is very hard for me to criticise his performance against James (Ward).
Beating Robby Ginepri (round two of qualifiers) a day before was huge. He played another very intense three-setter. Ginepris ranking may be down now but he is a former top-13 and in the second set,he played like a top-5 player. But Somdev aggravated his lower back again in that match. We didnt know what to expect in the final round.
So it was the injury that was bothering him when there was a momentum shift and he lost six games in a row against Ward?
It was a combination. Its hard to play in an explosive manner when you know you are not feeling 100%. Its not a stress fracture but its definitely nagging him. So maybe thats why he ended up playing a bit soft. And James also upped his game. He couldnt put away James easily after that but I think he did very well for that situation. He took a toilet break and asked himself what is it that my body is allowing me to do in this situation. Fortunately,he found a weakness in Jamess game. I think he did great to win these three matches.
Since his comeback post his shoulder surgery,he has been entering a lot of tournaments. What is your assessment of his season so far?
For this time in the year,I would have been happy had he been in the 150-200 bracket but he has exceeded my expectations and done even better. He has beaten some top players this season but he probably needs to put 4-5 wins together. Had he been returning as a Murray or Djokovic,we could have waited out more but he had to start somewhere.
It will take time to get back to that level where he was when he was in the top-60 and won gold medals (at the Commonwealth Games and Asian Games in 2010) but I would say he is very close.