Somdev Devvarman points finger at system
Somdev Dev Varman, former world No. 62 tennis player, was disappointed that none of the Indians taking part in the Australian Open qualifiers could go beyond the second round.
“It is disappointing for sure. Yuki (Bhambri) lost today (Thursday). Prajnesh Gunneswaran, Ramkumar Ramanathan, Ankita Raina are all out of contention. We have been relying on them for some time now and yes, the lack of youngsters coming up the ranks is alarming.
“Sumit Nagal and Karman Thandi have a lot of potential but both are working through injuries now and we can’t say what this year will hold for them,” said Somdev, who is an expert for Sony Sports.
“For India, it is a long road specially in terms of singles. The system is not designed to produce players in a methodical way and thus you have these one-off talents that come up in a decade or so. The country then piggybacks on their success. That is the unfortunate reality and unless that changes we can’t really expect any miraculous result.
“You have to get the basics right. The federation has to be involved in the right way. You need the right kind of leadership and expertise, good coaches and support staff. You need to find a way to maximize the potential in terms of players. Unless that happens, you can’t get a supply line of good players,” he added.
“We are still depending on Sania Mirza and Rohan Bopanna to give us some kind of cheer at this Australian Open (in doubles). They have done reasonably well recently, so who knows they may give us something to look forward to.”
Asked whether the Novak Djokovic visa saga could have been handled better, Somdev said: “Definitely. I feel so, by both Novak and Tennis Australia, and also the Australian government. We still don’t know what the outcome will be, but no one will come out of this looking good. Hopefully, next week we will be talking more about the tennis.”
Despite the controversy, Somdev feels if Djokovic gets to play he stands the best chance of winning the tournament. “Novak and (Rafael) Nadal are in the same half of the draw which is interesting. While you can never write off Rafa, I still feel this is Novak’s grand slam. And then there is also Daniil Medvedev who won the US Open.
“The women’s draw, as usual, is more open. All eyes are on Ashleigh Barty, the home favourite and the top seed.
“Then you have Emma Raducanu, Iga Swiatek and Coco Gauff. That’s a lot of talent. And you really can’t forget Garbine (Muguruza) and (Simona) Halep.”
Asked about India’s upcoming Davis Cup tie against Denmark in March, Somdev said: “It will be tough. Just the fact that we have relied on the same players for some time now and still waiting for the next guy to really step up makes things a little difficult for India.
“There are a few promising players coming up, but none who has been consistent and ready to play at this level. “Denmark have good players. We have our work cut out. The current format may help us a bit since we really don’t have players who are consistently playing and winning five setters. If Holger Rune (ranked 102) plays he can be a tough one to beat.”
The Australian Open will be live on Sony Six, Sony Ten 2, 3 & 4 from January 17.