Somdev Devvarman has reached the main draw of the US Open for the fifth year in a row. He defeated Britains debutant James Ward 6-3 3-6 6-4 in the third qualifying round. Ahead of his first-round match against Lukas Lacko,Somdev spoke about the raucous crowd,what worked for him in the qualifiers and what he did to ensure playing in his favourite Grand Slam. Excerpts:
You had a huge crowd support in your favour. Does the US Open feel as good as home?
This is one of my favourite venues to play tennis. It works out great for me at the US Open. A lot of my friends come down to see me play in New York. I am in fact staying at a friends place right now. And I made a road trip from my home (Virginia) to come here so its great to be able to drive down to a Slam. The Indian turn out was also very encouraging for me. Honestly,I didnt expect so many people for all my matches. Indians are not the kind of spectators who sit quietly so its a lot of fun playing before them. Indian fans like to be heard,they want their opinions to matter.. Ive had a great time so far.
It has been a pretty up and down ride to the main draw. What worked for you in the end?
The qualifiers at a Slam are always very challenging because a lot of good quality players are playing the same event,trying to do what you are trying to do. Im happy that Im back at US Open after last year and am glad that this is the third Slam Ill be playing this year.
All my three matches were very different from each other. It got very tight in the last one. For some 30 minutes,James (Ward) played exceptional. I just wanted to give myself a chance to fight. I might have made a couple of bad decisions,hit the ball shorter for sometime. But when it came down to fighting,I fought well. At 4-4 in the third set,it got very close and Im happy that Im the one playing the main draw.
You are carrying an injury as well. Was it impacting your movement?
It is not my surgery shoulder,its a lower back strain but my trainers are doing a very good job with it. Even overall,the conditions were very physical. It was windy,the heat was so sharp,it was humid.. they were very tough conditions to play tennis in. I wasnt feeling 100% physically when I was playing but there are a certain times when that happens and it happens to everybody. Its not the beginning of the year that your body is rested,a lot of players are coming to the last Slam with some niggles. What matters is that you make the best of your situation and not make it an excuse.
You havent played your Round 1 opponent Lukas Lacko before. What are your expectations from that match?
Lukas is a quality player. He has been in the top-100 for the past 5-6 years. that means a lot of consistency. I have a lot of respect for him because I know its not easy to do that. Ive looked him up,he has beaten some top players too. Im going to have a tough first round.
What are you aiming at for the rest of the season?
The most important thing is to be healthy. When I started this year,I wanted to get back to the top-100. Over the months,goals kept changing but I am not there yet so Im definitely looking for a good close to the season. Right now I am at a tricky ranking situation where I am just falling out of the bigger Tour events so I havent come to a definitive decision yet whether I want to do it (top-100) through qualifiers in bigger tournaments or sticking to Challengers.