French Open presents Somdev chance to script history


- dEsPeraTe cRaNky -
Somdev Devvarman has been the Indian flag bearer in men's singles for some time and his maiden French Open, starting on Sunday, has presented him the chance to achieve what none of his countryman has done for decades -- reach the third round of the clay court Grand Slam.

Only three Indians have made the third round of French Open, the last being Ramesh Krishnan in 1982.

Somdev's first two rounds will be against players, whom he has already beaten in his fledgling career. His first round opponent is world number 65 Marco Chiudinelli and next would possibly be American 17th seed John Isner.

Both Somdev and Marco have some similarities as they love playing on hard courts and from the baseline but the Indian would go into the first round with more confidence, courtesy the win in Dubai in February this year.

Somdev had also beaten big serving Isner in 2007 to win his maiden NCAA championship title in the US. But Somdev and Isner have not clashed in an ATP Tour event after turning professionals and the American is standing tall at world number 19 now.

But Somdev has brought down many reputations with his gritty style of play and if he pulls off an upset or two it won't be a surprise.

The 25-year-old wears a perfect tennis attitude on his sleeves. He considers his qualifying as mere start of the job and is always keen to better himself in his game as well as in fitness.

Somdev's qualification to the main draw has also ensured that India will not go unrepresented in the singles event of the clay court Grand Slam in the absence of Sania Mirza.

The seasoned pros Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi are always a strong contender here. They have won the men's doubles title together twice -- in 1999 and 2001 here.

Paes added another title last year with Lukas Dlouhy and will go into the tournament as defending champions.

Both Paes and his estranged partner are in good form this year and have done well in the ATP Masters Series tournaments.

Paes-Dlouhy won the Miami Masters after defeating Bhupathi and Mirnyi.

Also, they will look to add their respective 12th Slam title to their kitty as both have won 11 each so far.

Bhupathi must be keen to end his men's doubles title drought in Majors as he has not won since the US Open triumph in 2002 and incidentally that trophy came in Mirnyi's company.

Now that they have joined forces again, they would look to capture the trophy.

Apart from that, Paes and Bhupathi will also be contenders in the mixed doubles event.