Devvarman, a deserving winner

Somdev Devvarman with the Delhi Open Trophy.-S. SUBRAMANIUM

The Delhi Open final proved to be a damp squib since Oleksandr Nedovyesov was immensely fatigued after playing long matches in the previous rounds. Yet, it didn’t take the sheen off Devvarman’s achievement. In the wake of this triumph, he jumped from 96 to 78 in the rankings. By Priyansh.

There was much to love about the recently held ONGC GAIL Delhi Open $100,000 ATP Challenger tennis tournament. From February 17 to 23, a chirpy environment circled the Delhi Lawn Tennis Association complex. The organisation was satisfactory, the quality of tennis better and the crowd turnout surprisingly good.

It was the kind of festival of tennis that the organisers had hoped it would be. If that wasn’t enough, Somdev Devvarman won the title. Nothing else could rouse excitement like an Indian becoming the champion, after all.

Devvarman’s effervescent performance — not a reference to his lime green attire — became the headline of the week, but many other stories jostled for attention.

The Delhi event brought an end to the three-week long Challenger leg in India. The tournament began in Chennai, moved to Kolkata and ended in the national capital. The first two tournaments offered half the prize money as compared to the Delhi competition but not much changed in terms of the player field.

Devvarman’s victory was preceded by Yuki Bhambri’s success in Chennai. The former reached the semifinals in Chennai and Kolkata as well. Evidently, those three weeks brought much joy to Indian tennis.

Foreign players were quite content with the facilities, especially in Delhi. In addition to the centre court, four other courts hosted matches while many others were available for practice.

In fact, during and after the tournament, the chatter on the sidelines included repeated mentions of the ATP World Tour. Many wondered if the DLTA complex was behind other venues that host main tour events.

It’s difficult to make a case against Delhi. In fact, the Challenger tour was amply coloured by its visit to the city. Over the final weekend, the spectator count was significantly high by Challenger standards. The sound of drums and chants filled the air constantly. Players were quite encouraged by the atmosphere; many of them admitted it was nothing like what they had witnessed before on the Challenger tour.

Sanam Singh and Saketh Myneni celebrate after winning the doubles title.-S. SUBRAMANIUM

But such positives are not enough for Delhi to be placed on the World Tour map. Though the financial commitment was impressive for this tournament, one cannot be sure that greater funds will be accrued if a 250 or 500 event is organised in the city. The astronomical appearance fees paid to the top players is a severe limiting factor too.

Nonetheless, the return of a top-quality event to Delhi provided much contentment. The organisers’ decision to schedule matches post-afternoon provided a different outlook to the tournament. More people visited the DLTA courts in the evening to witness some enthralling matches under floodlights.

The centre court’s slowness added another element of intrigue to the tournament. After matches on outside courts, the hard-hitters found life tough at the 6,000-seater arena. This factor, though, worked in Devvarman’s favour. His defensive attributes became prominent and, at times, decisive.

The second-seeded Indian’s performance against Russia’s Evgeny Donskoy in the semifinal was his most special. In terms of rankings, there wasn’t much difference between the two but Devvarman won 6-2, 6-2. The scoreline in the final against higher-ranked Oleksandr Nedovyesov was equally convincing — 6-3, 6-1.

Unfortunately, the final proved to be a damp squib since the Kazakh was immensely fatigued after playing long matches in the previous rounds. Yet, it didn’t take the sheen off Devvarman’s achievement. In the wake of this triumph, he jumped from 96 to 78 in the rankings.

However, except Devvarman, no other Indian progressed past the first round. For Yuki Bhambri, the tournament arrived at the wrong time as he was at the end of a four-month cycle that had consumed him physically. After his exit, Yuki revealed his intention to take a break for a while.

But in the doubles section, there were happier tidings for Indian tennis as Saketh Myneni and Sanam Singh captured their second successive title. The wildcard duo had triumphed in Kolkata too.