Chennai, Jan 2: Indian tennis fraternity on Monday (Jan 2) came together in acknowledging the "tremendous contribution" Somdev Devvarman made to the game in the country and the fitness benchmarks he had set for the younger generation.
Counter-puncher Somdev, at the age of 31, announced his retirement from tennis on Sunday (Jan 1), having represented India in the Davis Cup in 14 ties with 14 wins and 10 defeats in singles.
After turning Pro in 2008, Somdev reached a career-high rank of 62 in July 2011.
He ended runner-up in ATP 250 events in Chennai (2009) and Johannesburg (2011) and those were his best results in his career apart from many wins on the Challenger circuit.
"Indian players can learn from him how to be so fit. He was a fitness freak. He played some great matches in Davis Cup. People can take a leaf out of his book. He also played some great matches at the Asian Games as well. His contribution to Indian tennis is tremendous," SP Misra, under whose captaincy Somdev played many Davis Cup ties, told PTI.
Asked to pick a few memorable moments, Misra mentioned World Group first round tie against Serbia in 2011 and also against Taipei and South Africa.
"During the tie against Chinese Taipei, he beat Lu, and against Serbia, he beat Janko Tipsarevic and also had a great singles win against Brazil. We made to the World Group twice and that was his major contribution," Misra said.
When reminded that his ouster from the Indian Davis Cup support staff was a result of a revolt led by Somdev, Misra said he "won't comment on the past."
India's current top singles players, Saketh Myneni, Yuki Bhambri and Ramkumar Ramanathan said Somdev will definitely be missed in the Davis Cup team for the sheer passion he brought into the game that rubbed off others as well.
"For me he is the best Davis Cupper in singles that I have seen. There are greats like Ramanathan and Ramesh Krishnan and Leander Paes but when I started playing I have seen him. He pushed us and showed us the way. We now how difficult it has become today when the courts are slow the balls are heavy and he sustained there. He set a benchmark for us," Yuki said.
Myneni said he was a "bit surprised" with Somdev's retirement decision.
"But when you are mentally drained it's difficult to continue but the kind of champion he is I thought he will give it one more shot. It's a challenge for us also now to fill in those shoes," Myneni, the current India number one at 192, said.
"The motivations and work ethics he brings on the court. I have known him since my college days. From his junior days to Davis Cup, tournaments outside, he brings the same energy. It's tough to replicate. One of the best in the game."
Ramkumar Ramanathan said, "the players will come and go but having Somdev around was very encouraging. He always helped me with his advice. He was very easy going."
Myneni said it will be difficult to train the way Somdev trained but they surely learnt from him.
"He is more physical and I can't do the same thing he did. My body type is different but seeing him certainly helped me in the last three years. His slugfest is amazing, I have not seen that in Indian tennis."
Yuki said now that Somdev will not be there to battle it out during Davis Cup, they understand the sense of responsibility.
"I was always relaxed when he was around during the Davis Cup. Now responsibility shifts but we still have strong core team. He was whole lot of fun off the court, great leadership role he played. He was different on court. He built his game on fitness. He pushed me to work harder. We have not seen many players like him, he will be definitely be missed," Yuki said.
Asked what is one thing which will be missed with Somdev not around in Davis Cup, Myneni said, "The teasing part will be missed. The chemistry in the team was great. He treats us like younger brothers."