Somdev aims to improve the structure of Indian tennis

Somdev Devvarman, who was recently appointed as the national observer of tennis in India, will be working closely with the AITA on growth and structuring of the sport in the country.

Somdev Devvarman plays with kids in Chennai. His NGO ‘Life is a Ball’ aims to make a difference in the lives of underprivileged children through sports.   -  B. Jothi Ramalingam

Somdev Devvarman will always be remembered as one of India’s top singles players in tennis. The lad from Tripura shocked everyone by announcing his retirement late last year. Post retirement, the 32-year-old was recently appointed as the national observer of tennis in India.

Speaking to Sportstar about his new role, Somdev said: “I was approached by the government, and I want to find ways to develop tennis and structure it in a better way. I will be working closely with the AITA (All India Tennis Association) and have already had a few meetings and detailed discussions with them in this regard. My aim is to improve the structure so that the kids have a chance of playing and doing well in the sport.”

He added that his acrimonious relationship with the AITA will not hamper Indian tennis in any way as both have the same aim of developing the sport in the country.

“My differences were never personal. I didn’t believe best things were being done to ensure tennis was moving in the right direction. I questioned their methods but theoretically we have the same goal. Ultimately, you have to find ways to make the current system work and that is where I believe difference of opinion can be healthy.”

Somdev felt that there was a big void in terms of what is present and what is needed to ensure that Indian players can take their game to the next level.

“There is a void in guidance, coaching, strength and conditioning and the list could well go on. The worrying part is none of it really exists. As an observer, that is also one of my jobs — I have to bring my expertise and make sure that things are in place for the future players.”

Positive spin on Davis Cup

Somdev also voiced his opinion on the Davis Cup row involving Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi. He said that their differences were not new but the focus should be on the youngsters proving themselves.

“As a tennis enthusiast, what pleases me is that two rookies played in the Davis Cup and both of them won. Balaji and Prajnesh are both new, and Ramkumar Ramnathan is inexperienced, but all of them got good results.”

Turning philanthropist

Somdev is very sentimental and passionate about his association with the non-profit organisation called Life is a Ball, of which he is also a co-founder.

Speaking on the sidelines of one of the events of the organisation, which aims to make a difference in the lives of underprivileged children through sports, Somdev said: “Unofficially we started seven years ago but now we have got government recognition. We aim to teach underprivileged kids values such as discipline, team spirit through sports, make it accessible to everyone and give these kids a platform to express themselves. We have 5000-plus kids and aim to take it to 15,000 by July.”

He distributed football equipment to the underprivileged children and played soccer with them.