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Tennis star

Somdev is the new icon


STEEPING OUT: Somdev forged his own identity in 2010 with rousing perfomances in the Davis Cup and Asian Games

Addicted to perhaps being lauded as India's only saviours on the tennis court, Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi might have felt a twinge of envy on seeing Somdev Devvarman single-handedly hold the rapt attention of the country.

Through the year, Devvarman stepped up and rose to whatever occasion demanded it. From the Davis Cup to Commonwealth Games to Asian Games, Devvarman never came back empty-handed. From breaking into the top 100 to winning gold medals in New Delhi and Guangzhou, Devvarman often favoured national pride over personal glory many times through the year, losing the opportunity to collect more points.

If he was unable to put it past Mikhail Youzhny in the World Group Round 1 tie against Russia in March then against Brazil in September at home in Chennai, he held his own against higher-ranked players and with help from Rohan Bopanna and the Indian Express tired down the Brazilian threat to give India the chance to play against the biggies in 2011. Sadly for Devvarman and the Indian team, they are up against 2010 Davis Cup champions Serbia in February at Belgrade. The high of the Davis Cup victory was carried into Delhi and Devvarman made his Commonwealth Games debut memorable by winning gold, which sort of made up for the disappointing bronze of Lee-Hesh in the doubles.

Sania Mirza, who took frequent breaks through the year due to injury, came close to winning the yellow metal but had to settle for silver. In Guangzhou, Devvarman became the first player since Japan's Toshiro Sakai to win singles and doubles gold medals at the Asian Games. He beat Denis Istomin in the singles final and partnered Sanam Singh to the doubles title.

Bopanna, who had reached the final of the US Open, opted to skip the Asian Games along with Paes and Bhupathi. He rose through the ranks to finish as the 16th best doubles player in the world. Paes, who managed just one Grand Slam appearance through the year with two titles accumulated through the year decided to bid partner of two years Lucas Dlouhy goodbye and joined hands with former friend-turnedfoe-now-partner Bhupathi for the Chennai Open and Australian Open.

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