Wimbledon: Somdev, Sania to shoulder India’s singles challenge

June 19th, 2011 - 7:22 pm ICT by IANS  

Somdev Devvarman New Delhi, June 19 (IANS) India’s top tennis singles players Somdev Devvarman and Sania Mirza would look to create a few upsets even though the doubles will carry the nation’s hopes at the Wimbledon Championships beginning Monday.

Somdev, ranked 68, will be making his maiden singles appearance, though he qualified for the doubles in 2009 and 2010, both times making a first round exit. This year he qualified for the singles by the virtue of his improved ranking.

The 26-year-old Indian heads straight to London after the French Open and played three tournaments to polish up his game on grass. Though he made early exits at Nottingham and Queens’, he played two solid matches at AEGON International at Eastbourne this week, where he shocked fourth seed Guillermo Garcia-Lopez of Spain in straight sets in the first round and then took Frenchmen Julien Benneteau to the distance in the second before bowing out.

Somdev said he is finally finding himself at home on grass and is excited about making his first singles appearance at the Wimbledon.

“Playing at a Grand Slam is always special. It’s true I’ve made a couple of doubles appearances here before but I’m pretty excited about making it to the singles draw this year. I’d like to play well and get in a few good matches,” Somdev told IANS from London.

“I played a few tournaments on grass right after the French Open. I think that has helped me break-in to the surface and I find myself more comfortable on grass. Hopefully, all that practice and preparation will come to fruition.”

Somdev has been drawn against 110th-ranked Denis Gremelmayr of Germany, who he will be playing for the first time. He, however, is not expecting it to be an easy outing.

“The draw is never really easy. Most players that make it to the main draw of a Grand Slam are good. I will take it one match at a time,” said Somdev.

The Indian will be partnering Japan’s Kei Nishikori in the doubles where they play Germany’s Rainer Schuettler and Alexander Waske in the first round.

“Nishikori and I have been practicing together. Our combined ranking would have got us directly into the main draw, so we decided to sign-in,” he said.

In the women’s singles, Sania, ranked 60th, will take on France’s 28-year-old Virginie Razzano in the opening round. The 24-year-old Hyderbadi had met 96th-ranked Razzano only once in 2007 at Los Angeles where she lost to her in straight sets.

The Indian has never moved beyond the second round here, reaching the stage four times. The doubles, however, will be her best chance to have a crack at the title, having reached her maiden women’s doubles final with Russia’s Elena Vesnina on her least favoured surface, clay, at the French Open earlier this month.

“My expectations for every tournament have constantly remained the same over the years. I expect myself to give my best,” Sania told IANS.

Sania and Elena are seeded fourth here and meet Anna Chakvetadze of Russia and Melanie Oudin of the US in the first round.

In the men’s doubles, old warhorses Leander Peas and Mahesh Bhupathi will look to claim their first Grand Slam title together after reuniting earlier this year. The two had won the doubles title here way back in 1999. Paes and Bhupathi are seeded third and play Croats Ivan Dodig and Lovro Zovko in the first round.

Following close on their heels will be compatriot Rohan Bopanna who along with Pakistan’s Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi have proved to be a potent force in doubles. The two tuned up for the event by winning their second ATP title together in the Gerry Webber Open at Halle last week.

Bopanna and Qureshi, who reached their first ever Grand Slam final in 2010 US Open, are seeded fourth here and open against Columbia’s Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah.

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