Devvarman brings cheers

R. RAGU

It is debatable if the host should consider itself fortuitous or plain cussed of luck after a haul of a gold, a silver and two bronzes, writes Kunal Diwan.

Some were seen to fruition. Some were severed in relative nascence. Dreams at the inaugural Commonwealth Games tennis event were realised and shattered in equal measure. A field headed by the world's No. 100 and No. 65 men's and women's players could never have matched up to its pre-tournament hype. But a city as devoid of tennis etiquette as New Delhi deserved nothing more.

It is also debatable if the host should consider itself fortuitous or plain cussed of luck after a haul of a gold, a silver and two bronzes. Somdev Devvarman brought India its first, and only, gold in the event; Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi fell in the semifinals of the men's doubles, settling for bronze; Sania Mirza went the distance against top-seeded Anastasia Rodionova, but had to satisfy herself with a silver. Sania teamed up with Rushmi Chakravarthi for another bronze, but her marquee pairing with Paes in mixed doubles was shown the exit in the quarterfinals.

Australia, led by the recently instated Anastasia Rodionova netted eight medals, including two gold — both Rodionova's, whose hat-trick of first positions was cut short in the mixed final with a three-set loss to the Scottish pair of Jocelyn Rae and Colin Fleming.

The tournament started without a bang. No bangs, in fact, appeared till later, and initial proceedings involved as many bagels and double-bagels as there were insects on court. The phalanx of policemen that greeted visitors at the venue was only an extension of the chain of uniformed, gun-toting men that snaked all along New Delhi's roads all through the fortnight. This preoccupation with security was understandable. What was not was the obsession with an unhealthy number of volunteers and support staff.

Barking into walkie-talkies, this group represented the average (way below average, really) Delhi college student whose only goal in life was to tote a clipboard, strut about discussing planet-saving issues such as the fit of their red, freebie track-pants, which paper went into which pigeonhole, or remind spectators they were “not allowed to put their feet up on the chairs”. When approached with a genuine query, the responses were standard — either a clueless contortion of the face or a smug reply that providing this particular nugget of information was ‘not their responsibility'.

With such a farce in place and even more farcical tennis on offer, it was left to the devices of Somdev Devvarman to throw some golden light on darkened Indian faces with a faultless performance in a dead draw. Devvarman's surety from the baseline, though nothing spectacular, made sure he did not drop a set on his way to the gold medal — India's lone claim to that colour after Paes' and Bhupathi's ostensible ownership of the top slot was shaken out of their grasp in the semifinals, by Aussies Peter Luczak and Paul Hanley.

Australia's Anastasia Rodionova (right) is greeted by India's Sania Mirza after the women's final.-PTI

But, first things first. Devvarman's challenges, if one may call them that, came in the first round (against Devin Mullings of Bahamas) and later (against Peter Statham of New Zealand). On both occasions the Indian top-seed struggled to launch in the first set. He was down a break against Mullings, before order was restored.

With Statham, he swapped breaks in the opener, and then ran away with the rest of the match. Much was expected of his final against Greg Jones, who had upset second-seeded Peter Luczak in the semifinals. Jones began well, but was eventually no match to the crowd favourite's relentlessness from the back of the court.

The women's final offered more by way of an oscillatory contest. Sania lost the first set to Rodionova, not holding her serve even once, fought back to win the second, and was 2-0 up in the decider when it all got too much for her. She had escaped from a set and a break down in her semifinals against Australia's Olivia Rogowska, but couldn't reprise that performance in the final.

Another match that got the crowd worked up was the men's doubles bronze encounter, between Paes and Bhupathi, and Devvarman and Rohan Bopanna. The old warhorses won in straight sets, proving they were still a cut above the younger team.

THE RESULTS Men:

Singles: Gold: Somdev Devvarman bt Greg Jones (Aus) 6-4, 6-2. Bronze: Matt Ebden bt Peter Luczak 6-3, 6-3.

Doubles: Gold: Paul Hanley & Peter Luczak (Aus) bt Ross Hutchins & Ken Skupski (Eng) 6-4, 3-6, 6-3. Bronze: Mahesh Bhupathi & Leander Paes bt Somdev Devvarman & Rohan Bopanna 6-3, 7-6 (4).

Women:

Singles: Gold: Anastasia Rodionova (Aus) bt Sania Mirza (Ind) 6-3, 2-6, 7-6 (3). Bronze: Sally Peers (Aus) bt Olivia Rogowska (Aus) 4-6, 7-6 (2), 6-3.

Doubles: Gold: Sally Peers & Anastasia Rodionova bt Jessica Moore & Olivia Rogowska 6-3, 2-6, 6-3. Bronze: Sania Mirza & Rushmi Chakravarthi br Nirupama Sanjeev & Poojashree Venkatesha 6-4, 6-2.

Mixed doubles: Gold: Jocelyn Rae & Colin Fleming bt Anastasia Rodionova & Paul Hanley 7-6 (7), 6-7 (2), 6-2. Bronze: Sarah Borwell & Ken Skupski (Eng) bt Anna Smith & Ross Hutchins (Eng) 4-6, 6-3, 6-2.