Moments like these are rare in Indian tennis and this one has taken over 10 years to come. India’s Somdev Devvarman entered the top 100 in international tennis rankings for the first time in his career—he is ranked No. 96 now—and is the first Indian man to crack the top 100 since Leander Paes in March 1999. The 2009 Chennai Open finalist is getting his act together for the next level.

At 25, Devvarman may be a late bloomer in tennis (he turned professional at 23), but that doesn’t deter him from setting himself higher goals. “I am aware of all the hard work of my team to get me here and it’s been a struggle. But that makes me motivated and excited to aim for higher ground," Devvarman said over phone from the US.

Promise of more: Somdev Devvarman says living in the US helps in his training and practice. Hindustan Times

Candid about not being a top player on the junior circuit, Devvarman terms his decision to go to college as “one of the best" he’s ever made. He was a regular on the US college tennis circuit, where he beat players such as American John Isner, who recently won the longest match in tennis history at Wimbledon. It’s also in the US that he honed his tennis skills.

What sets him apart from most other Indian tennis players is his decision to spend most of his time in the US, despite being an Indian citizen. The choice bodes well for him considering his coach Scott McCain and trainer are based there. He says: “What’s important for me, when it comes to training, is that I surround myself with tennis and players with whom I can train. There are tennis players all over the US, in Florida, in California, and so on."

All of them, he adds, are just one flight away, so it’s easier for him to keep practising at a higher level. Intense on-court practice isn’t the only thing he’s focusing on these days. At 73kg, and 5ft 11 inches, Devvarman realizes the importance of physical fitness in today’s sport.

“I was really skinny during my college days, but physical fitness is something that I have put a lot of stress on, even when I was in college. Spending quality time on the track has helped me," he adds. A full-time trainer is now part of Devvarman’s entourage.

It’s too soon to say how far Devvarman will go, but the Assam-born lad has set his sights on cracking the top 30 soon. Juggling his international schedule, Devvarman makes it a point to come to India as frequently as possible, at the very least to play at the Chennai Open (he lost to Marin Cilic in the 2009 final) and in the Davis Cup, and to visit his parents in Agartala, Tripura.