Q&A | Somdev Devvarman

After winning the men’s singles gold medal at the Commonwealth Games in New Delhi, 25-year-old Somdev Devvarman has become the first Indian to win a singles gold in tennis at the Asian Games. His 6-1, 6-2 demolition of Uzbekistan’s Denis Istomin (world No. 40), ranked 66 places higher than him, came a day after he won gold in the doubles with Sanam Singh. Devvarman speaks about the final, the success of Indian tennis players at the Asian Games, and the music playing in his head. Edited excerpts:

Flawless: Devvarman beat Istomin, ranked 66 places higher than him. PTI photo

India’s first ever singles gold medallist at the Asian Games—is this the best moment of your career so far?

Right now, when I think of it, it’s poetic—everything I was thinking about happened. It was the perfect match, the last match of the season for me and I can’t think of a better way to have ended it. At this stage, with a gold medal for India against a guy I have never beaten before, absolutely amazing feeling right now.

This is your first time at the Asian Games, and it really has been a dream debut for you, because this is your second straight gold.

You have to tip your hat to the coaches and the captain of the Aita (All India Tennis Association) for sending such a young team and putting faith in us. We made some really bold decisions, about who to play and when to play. Vishnu (Vardhan) comes here and no one has heard of him and he plays like a killer, almost nabs the gold for India in mixed doubles with Sania (Mirza). Karan Rastogi was unfortunate to lose a heartbreaker against Istomin in the quarters. Everyone saw what Sanam was capable of in the doubles final. He showed he is a big time player and ready to take the court now.

When you go into the final, you expect a tough game against the No. 1 seed, who is also a top 50 player in the world, but you won in straight sets.

I played one of my most flawless matches and I served well, played defence as well. The whole time, I thought if I give this guy a second chance, he could be dangerous and make it tough for me, so I’m happy I didn’t give him a second look. The last couple of days, my mother has been sending text messages to say she has been getting heart attacks watching me play, so I’m glad I could make it easier for everyone else.

It was a late night after winning the doubles gold with Sanam Singh. Was it difficult to focus or feel physically fresh in the singles final?

I was looking at it as two separate events. Last night, I jumped into the ice tub after the match, had a rub, and then had a quiet dinner with everyone. This morning, they (coaches and physios) did their best to help me relax and make sure I’m calm and happy.

When you get in the circuit next season, will this win give you that extra motivation?

Right now, I haven’t thought about it. I’m just excited about the break. I’m going to work harder this off-season and hopefully, get better and do better in the (Grand) Slams next year.

You are a big music lover—what’s playing in your head right now?

At the moment, smooth jazz. It doesn’t have any lyrics, so you can pretty much put whatever you are thinking at that time into the song in your head. That’s pretty much what is playing in my head right now.

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