Qualifier Devvarman Is Here To Stay

In yesterday's lone main draw match, Nicolas Mahut, above, parlays 17 aces into a three-set victory over Wayne Odesnik. Mahut, from France, had just two double faults on the afternoon.
In yesterday's lone main draw match, Nicolas Mahut, above, parlays 17 aces into a three-set victory over Wayne Odesnik. Mahut, from France, had just two double faults on the afternoon. (By Preston Keres -- The Washington Post)
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By Mark Viera
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, August 11, 2008

With each announcement of his name, fans cheer. With each set, they applaud him. With each win, Somdev Devvarman's profile grows. His incredible rise as a professional continued yesterday at the Legg Mason Tennis Classic.

Devvarman, a University of Virginia product, played the role of upstart at the tournament the past two years; he entered the main draw as a wild card in 2006 and surprised opponents and gained fans last year by navigating qualifiers to earn a spot in the main draw. As a wild card this year, he has been one of the most talked about names in qualifying -- he has developed a fan base of followers clad in Cavalier navy and orange -- and was perhaps its most exciting player.

"Hopefully [I'll] learn from my two losses," Devvarman said, "and make the most of it."

He again advanced to the main draw this year. Devvarman, a native of India, defeated Japan's Go Soeda, 7-5, 7-5, and will play Taylor Dent in today's opening round.

Robert Kendrick, Ramon Delgado and Rik De Voest, all of whom won qualifiers yesterday, will join Devvarman in the main draw. Nicolas Mahut defeated Wayne Odesnik in yesterday's lone main draw match.

For Devvarman, 23, qualifying marked another step in a professional career trending decidedly upward. He has risen 477 places in the world rankings since he turned pro at the beginning of June -- he is currently ranked 320th -- having won three consecutive International Tennis Federation Futures Circuit tournaments.

The win also represented a bit of payback for Devvarman. He lost, 6-4, 7-6 (8-6), last week to Soeda at the Vancouver Open.

"I feel like overall I played well," Devvarman said. "Not great, not fantastic, but overall I played well. I played the big points pretty well. I think it was just a matter of a couple of points here and there that turned the match around."

Devvarman said a changed philosophy helped. He and Soeda play with markedly different styles. Devvarman sits deep behind the baseline, waiting to drive through his shots. Soeda is aggressive, playing inside the baseline and often creeping closer to the net. So this time Devvarman stayed cognizant of keeping his shots long. Against a player like Soeda, short shots can hurt.

But Devvarman struggled to place the ball deep in the first set and succumbed to a few of Soeda's drop shots. He also had difficulty, at times, keeping up with Soeda's left-to-right placement and made unforced errors. He adjusted as the afternoon progressed and found success.

"He likes taking the ball early, and he likes dictating play," Devvarman said. "The deeper I hit the ball, the less opportunity he had to dictate play, which I think frustrated him at times. I don't think he played the greatest match, for him. I'm sure he's disappointed as well. I think a lot of that had to do with me making a few adjustments."

Few schools recruited Devvarman from his home town of Chennai, India. But Virginia hosted him on a campus visit and Coach Brian Boland traveled to India in order to make his pitch.


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