The tag ‘Happy Slam’ may have taken a bit of beating for the Australian Open, but former India No.1, Somdev Devvarman, recalled that it was always a “Players Slam’’ with constant upgrade of facilities and friendly atmosphere.
“I have had good times Down Under. In 2013, I lost the second round 7-5 in the fifth set to Jerzy Janowicz. He used to shout ‘How many times’ at bad line calls. It became a trend thereafter,” recalled Somdev.
Notwithstanding the tough start for Novak Djokovic in Melbourne, and possibly less training and matches in the run-up, Somdev picked the World No. 1 Serb as the favourite for the men’s title.
Somdev reeled off a dozen names as likely champions in the women’s field, while giving pride of place to Ashleigh Barty to win a Grand Slam on home turf.
Interacting with the media while getting ready to share his expertise on Sony Television, the former Asian Games and Commonwealth Games champion, Somdev bemoaned the fact that it was back to relying on Rohan Bopanna and Sania Mirza to fare well in the first Grand Slam of the season.
“The singles was disappointing as none of our players crossed the second qualifying round,” he said.
Equally, it was “not a huge surprise’’ for Somdev that Bopanna and Ramkumar Ramanathan combined so brilliantly to win the ATP doubles title in Adelaide last week, considering their big game.
Somdev was categorical in stating that the Indian tennis system was “not designed”’ to produce world-class champions regularly, and added that he enjoyed the time working with the leading players Sumit Nagal and Karman Kaur Thandi last year.
“Sumit has the game to be a top-100 player. It will be very challenging for him to come back into the circuit in April, May, after a hip surgery. His talent and experience will help him,” observed Somdev.
Saying that it was “very rewarding” both to be a guide for players on court, and share his knowledge with the viewers and players on television, Somdev stressed that tennis was “not like cricket” in the country, as there were ‘’very few opportunities’’.
When queried about the forthcoming Davis Cup tie against Denmark in March, Somdev said that it was “not going to be easy,” but would be interesting.
“The conditions may help us, and the fact that it will be best of three sets could be more beneficial for us. But, Denmark, with a couple of young players, is going to be tough’’, said Somdev.
(Watch Australian Open 2022 from January 17 on Sony Six, Sony TEN 2 and TEN 4)