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Rebel Indian player proves a point at Melbourne

Devvarman records straight sets first-round victory over Germany’s Phau

Gulf News

Melbourne: A defiant Somdev Devvarman proved on Monday the Indian Davis Cup team will be poorer for his absence as he surged into the second round of the Australian Open.

Devvarman is one of 11 rebel players to make themselves unavailable for India’s Asia/Oceania Group I tie against South Korea next month.

He ignored a bitter dispute with the Indian governing body to defeat Germany’s world number 78 Bjorn Phau 6-3, 6-2, 6-3 in a commanding performance.

Ranked 84 before shoulder surgery ruined his 2012 season, Devvarman, along with Yuki Bhambri and Sanam Singh, boycotted the Davis Cup tie with eight others after claiming demands made to the All India Tennis Association had not been met.

They included Davis Cup teams being comprised of six players to ensure adequate practice partners, and the decision-making process for choosing the surface and venue for home ties to involve the selected players. They also want team management to include a physiotherapist and coach and a revised agreement for the distribution of Davis Cup prize money.

The AITA announced last week that Leander Paes, Ranjeet Virali-Murugesan, Vijayant Malik, and Purav Raja would play against South Korea.

“I’ve been enjoying the dispute, speaking honestly,” Devvarman said. “It’s the first time in a long time that all the players on the Indian tennis scene, pretty much, are on really good terms with each other.

“As far as the players are concerned, we know we’re trying to do the best thing for ourselves and our country and give future players the best conditions.

“It’s challenging but it’s a good time and it’s not playing with my mind at all. It’s great, actually.”

Devvarman claimed proof of the unity of India’s players came when he checked his telephone straight after the match.

“It’s the first time I’ve had 15 text messages after a match — all of them from players from India,” he said.

“That shows a lot of support for what we are trying to accomplish. That’s important.”

The 27-year-old Devvarman’s next assignment in Melbourne will be against Italian Simone Bolelli or Poland’s 24th-seeded Jerzy Janowicz.