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For an Indian pro who rose to 62nd on the ATP singles charts, Somdev Devvarman can't be faulted for not optimizing his potential. A late bloomer, Somdev was a self-made player, like most of his illustrious compatriots.
Blessed with a good tennis brain, Somdev's biggest strength lay in knowing his limitations and always playing within them. A counter-puncher who was willing to slug it out on every point, India's best singles player of the millennium relied on his strong legs and baseline solidity to often punch above his weight. His first smart move saw him move to the US at the age of 20. Not averse to putting in the hard yards, Somdev struck it rich in a couple of years in the extremely competitive US collegiate system. He earned his spurs for University of Virginia in 2007, beating the talented John Isner to win the prestigious NCAA singles championship and went on to defend the title the year after. It earned him immediate recognition back home, as he was drafted into the Indian team.
Somdev was like a breath of fresh air in the Davis Cup team, which was overtly dependent on doubles maestros Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi, along with occasional singles player Rohan Bopanna who was also in the process of turning into a doubles specialist.
The need of the hour was an accomplished singles player, and they got one in Somdev. Somdev turned the corner in 2009.With the team getting a relatively easy draw in the World Group play-off, Somdev made it count against South Africa, winning both his singles rubbers to ensure India's passage back to Davis Cup's elite 16. Beating Rik de Voist from being two sets down in front of a noisy South African crowd was one of the highlights of his career.
It capped off a memorable year for Somdev, who in January had become the first Indian to advance to the final of the Chennai Open, knocking out the likes of Carlos Moya and Ivo Karlovic on the way .
A shoulder surgery in 2012 slowed down Somdev considerably and pulled his ranking down from the 60s to 664. Like a true warrior, Somdev worked his way back to the top 100. He gave it a couple of years, only to realize that he didn't have the strength to sustain his push for a top-50 spot.
True to his character, he was honest with himself, so the retirement decision didn't surprise those who knew him well.
His career lasted less than nine years, but Som did enough in that time to carve a niche for himself in Indian tennis.