Assam's loss, India's gain - Davis Cup call-up 'robs' state of possible Games medal

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By Staff Reporter in Guwahati
  • Published 1.02.07

Guwahati, Feb. 1: Any other year, the news of a tennis player from Assam making it to the Davis Cup team would have been cause for much celebration.

But when Guwahati boy Somdev Devvarman was named in the Davis Cup squad for the Asia-Oceania group a couple of days ago, the news creased Assam’s brow, because it meant losing a potential medal-clincher from the National Games team.

Assam had been eyeing Devvarman, who was named ACC Men’s Tennis Player of the Week in Virginia on Monday, to represent the state as a “prime medal prospect” in the Games.

Vijay Kannan and Rohan Bopanna had earlier opted out of the event.

“There was a plan till three weeks back to rope in the services of Devvarman for the National Games and we were counting him in the five-member state squad. But his call for the Davis Cup left us in sweet pain. We lost a medal prospect but have gained in pride,” said one of the office-bearers of the All Assam Tennis Association (AATA).

After more than three decades, a player from Assam has finally made it to world tennis. Bidyut Goswami had represented India from 1973 to 1975.

Devvarman picked up the racquet as a nine-year-old in Chennai in 1994 and after learning the basics he made it to the Britannia Amritraj Tennis Academy in 2000.

He also had a short stint at the National Tennis Academy at Gurgaon in 2003 before leaving for the University of Virginia in the US the following year.

This year, he came through four qualifying rounds and reached the quarterfinals of a Futures event. He won a Futures meet in Calcutta three years ago and beat the much higher ranked Aisam-ul Haq Qureshi in the Mumbai Futures before that.

He has been the reigning All-America champion and All-ACC champion in 2005 and 2006. Besides, he finished as the runner-up in the NCAA last year.

And now he will rub shoulders with Leander Paes and Karan Rastogi.

His achievements have not only made his parents proud, but has brought joy to the entire Northeast. Devvarman’s father is from Tripura and mother from Meghalaya.

As soon as news of Devvarman’s selection came in yesterday, All Assam Tennis Association general secretary Raktim Saikia spent over two hours on the telephone informing everyone of his feat.

“It is a matter of great pride for the entire Northeast that one of our boys is playing not only in the Davis Cup but is also a leading player in the US,” said Swapnil Borthakur, an office-bearer of Assam’s tennis association.