Ravaged by injuries, India’s star singles player Somdev Devvarman announced his retirement from professional tennis last Sunday (1), bringing an abrupt end to what was once a promising career.
“Starting 2017 on a new note, retiring from pro tennis. Thanks to everyone for the love and support over the years. #newyearnewbeginnings,” Devvarman said on his Twitter page.
The 31-year-old’s career was hampered by a recurring shoulder injury in 2012. He recovered to stage a comeback but he had been missing from action without any specified reason for some time now.
There is speculation that he might now take up coaching.
“The goal was to play in the singles and be in the top 100. To prolong my career and play doubles did not make sense to me. Singles is exciting,” he said.
“Maybe I could have done a few things differently early in my career, but it’s easy to say things in hindsight. Everyone makes mistakes. Who knows If I had not had that (shoulder) injury in 2011 what I would have accomplished?”
Devvarman has been India’s top singles player since he first came onto the scene in 2008. A regular in India’s Davis Cup squad, he appeared in 14 rubbers and played a crucial role in India reaching the World Group back in 2010.
The player also made the finals of two ATP Tour events, the 2009 Chennai Open as a wildcard and the 2011 South Africa Open. He also won singles and doubles gold medals at the 2010 Asian Games in Guangzhou, China.
He reached a career-high rank of 62 in 2011 and was conferred the Arjuna award, the country’s second highest sporting honour, that same year. His 44–1 win-loss record in 2008 at the NCAA Men’s Tennis Championship remains unmatched.
The Indian tennis fraternity acknowledged the “tremendous contribution” Devvarman had made to the game.
“Indian players can learn from him how to be so fit. He was a fitness freak. He also played some great matches at the Asian Games as well. His contribution to Indian tennis is tremendous,” SP Misra, under whose captaincy Devvarman played many Davis Cup ties, said.
India’s current top singles players, Saketh Myneni, Yuki Bhambri and Ramkumar Ramanathan said Devvarman will be missed in the Davis Cup team.
“For me, he is the best Davis Cupper in singles that I have seen. There are greats like Ramanathan, Ramesh Krishnan and Leander Paes but when I started playing he pushed us and showed us the way,” Bhambri said.
“We now know how difficult it has become today when courts are slow and the balls are heavy. But he sustained his play, he set a benchmark for us,” he added.
Myneni said he was a “bit surprised” with Devvarman’s decision to retire at an relatively early age.
“When you are mentally drained it’s difficult to continue, but the kind of champion he is I thought he would give it one more shot.
“It’s a challenge for us now to fill in those shoes,” Myneni, the current India number one at 192, said. “He brings great motivation and work ethics on court.
“I have known him since my college days. From his junior days to Davis Cup and tournaments outside, he brings the same energy. It’s tough to replicate. He is one of the best in the game.”
Ramanathan added: “The players will come and go, but having Somdev around was very encouraging. He always helped me with great advice. He was very easy going too.”