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Somdev battles through to second round of Miami Masters

The flag bearer of Indian tennis in more ways than one, Somdev Devvarman put up a typically resilient display to claw his way back from a set and a break deficit to oust 78th ranked Evgeny Donskoy and advance to the second round of the Sony Open Tennis tournament in Miami. On a hot and humid day, Somdev drew from the reservoir of intense desire to earn a brilliant 4-6, 7-6(5), 6-2 victory to set up another promising battle against the Memphis finalist Feliciano Lopez.

File Photo: Somdev Devvarman. (Getty Images)

File Photo: Somdev Devvarman. (Getty Images)

Donskoy had given a mighty scare to Andy Murray in the second round of the Indian Wells Master Series event, before bowing out in three sets. The 22-year-old pushed Somdev on the back foot with the power of his forehand, but the Indian survived a nervy start to hold serve after saving a couple of break points in the very first game. Both the players were struggling with their first serve, which was well below 50%. But by the middle of the first set, despite the difference in rankings, it was beginning to seem obvious that there was not much to pick between the two.

After holding off Somdev in the sixth game by saving two break points, the Russian piled the pressure to earn the first break of the match in the seventh game. That was to prove adequate enough for the 22-year-old to serve out for the set in exactly 50 minutes. Buoyed by the ascendancy, Donskoy broke Somdev to love in the first game of the second set. At 3-1 to the Russian, it appeared that the Indian was ready for an early exit.

The Chennai bred Somdev though is a street fighter, always willing to pick up the battle against the odds. He set about fixing the leak by taking advantage of a weak service game by the Russian to return the compliment with a break to love in the sixth game and pull the set back to even terms at 3-3. With the Russian serving a miserable 34% first serves, Somdev ought to have pressed on for another break but errors from the Indian allowed the Russian to drag the set into a tie-breaker.

The first five points in the breaker went against serve and when Donskoy finally won two in a row off his serve he was within two points of a spot in the second round. Somdev’s taste for drama came to the fore again, when he fought back with renewed energy to somehow take the next five points and force the decider. It was a sequence that also robbed the Russian’s self-belief as he let the Indian back into the match from a position of dominance, not once but twice in the second set.

Somdev struck the fatal blow in the third game of the decider – having squandered a couple of break points to slip back to deuce, the Indian took the next to take a 2-1 lead in the final set. With the Russian on the mat, Somdev doubled his advantage when he broke again in the seventh game. The 254th ranked Indian ensured there would be no further drama when he put the Russian out of his misery in the next game by clinching his first match point to end the 2 hour 31 minute battle.

Somdev, who had started the year at 664th in the rankings, is making steady progress and it will be an interesting test against Lopez in the second round. The two haven’t met before and the 34th ranked Spaniard will be looking for a better showing in Miami after that disappointing first round loss in Indian Wells over Ernests Gulbis.

In other matches on the day – 95th ranked veteran James Blake made good use of his wild card by ousting compatriot Ryan Harrison 6-2, 6-2 in a one sided contest. The 33-year-old broke twice in each set to improve his record over his young countryman to 3-0 with the unexpectedly easy victory in just 58 minutes. Another wildcard, Lleyton Hewitt also enjoyed a pleasant victory under the sun over Joao Sousa emerging 6-1, 7-6(3) victor after twice failing to serve out the match before edging through in the breaker. Next up for Hewitt is the Frenchman Gilles Simon, who has a 2-0 record over the Aussie.

2008 champion Nikolay Davydenko had a curious outing – losing a set sandwiched between bagels to advance to the second round. The Russian took out Paolo Lorenzi 6-0, 2-6, 6-0 to set up an intriguing second round encounter against Alexandr Dolgopolov. Jurgen Melzer, fresh from winning the Dallas Challenger last week had to come from behind to keep himself alive in the tournament. The Austrian faced a stiff battle from the Lithuanian Ricardas Berankis before eking out a 3-6, 6-3, 7-6(1) victory. Other winners included Xavier Malisse, Lukas Rosol, Tobias Kamke and Michael Llodra. Rosol has earned a shot against the world No. 1 Novak Djokovic in the next round.

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