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‘I have learnt from my errors’

As Somdev begins preparations for the Chennai Open,India’s top-ranked player looks ahead to 2010.

Written by Shreya Chakravertty | New Delhi |
December 29, 2009 12:21:54 am

On the way home after a hectic schedule even in the tennis off-season,you’d think Somdev Devvarman would like to forget about his sport for a while and give himself a chance to unwind. Instead,an intense read of Andre Agassi’s autobiography at the Kolkata airport made him miss his flight to Agartala last week,even after he had finished his checking-in duties on time.

“It was embarrassing,they announced my name 15-20 times,but I didn’t hear it because I was reading the book. I was so lost in it that I didn’t notice my flight was called. But I managed to get the next flight and make it home in time for Christmas dinner,” says Somdev,speaking to The Indian Express.

His focus doesn’t always land him in trouble,though. In 2009,it led him to the Chennai Open final,knocking out established names like Carlos Moya and Ivo Karlovic. While the buzz around the event,which beings next week,is centred around him,Somdev doesn’t get carried away by this. “I would love to have another good run in Chennai,but that is just one tournament. The rest of the year will still be there. I have to move on,and the Australian Open is the big one. It’s a long race and I can’t worry about every hiccup along the way,” he says.

Somdev’s ranking is currently 126 and he could be allotted a wild card for the year’s first Slam at Melbourne Park. He has no hesitation in saying that he is looking forward to 2010 because after a year of traveling round-the-clock and living out of a suitcase,he is much better equipped to deal with the pressures of the tour.

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While making a name in the top 100 is a target within touching distance,Somdev doesn’t want to simply stop there. The mistakes that were made in his first pro year will not be repeated now,he insists,and adds that his entire team has more experience now than it had a year ago. “I played a stretch of 9-10 weeks continuously,and that was not a good idea,in retrospect. I didn’t prepare well for the grasscourt season,that is something I will work on this time. I reached Nottingham the night before I was due to play,I didn’t even have my grasscourt shoes. They might seem little things,but they are important. I will definitely be better prepared for the coming season.”

Another little fact he hopes will make a difference is the three-week training session he had with Andy Roddick earlier this month. Last year as well,the Indian worked with the former US Open champion at the American’s home in Austin,Texas,and at that time,Somdev got an idea of what a top player’s training regime was like — punishing.

“Those weeks helped my preparation a lot. I could tell I have improved because I could compete with Roddick this time,a couple of times I could tell I was even getting on his nerves. That has to be a good thing,” he says.

Somdev plans to begin his practice in Chennai from Tuesday,and while he’s had a memorable,noisy Christmas with family all around him,New Year’s Eve will be a much quieter affair. “I’ll probably be with a few friends,no wild parties for me. I have to keep on practicing,” he says.

Somdev is looking forward to playing in front of the Chennai crowd again,which never tired of cheering him on all through the tournament week in 2009. He looks set for another performance to remember,but to be safe,he has already thought up an excuse in the event of an early exit. “I’m trying to convince my parents to come and watch me. They’re very busy,so they aren’t sure if they can. But I’m going to put the blame on them if I lose early,” he says with a laugh.

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