Somdev Devvarman Tuesday became the first Indian to win a singles gold medal in the Asian Games tennis, stunning top-seed Denis Istomin of Uzbekistan 6-1, 6-2 here Tuesday.
Somdev’s gold capped a successful tennis campaign here and took India to the seventh spot in the medal’s tally.
Somdev dominated the title clash of an hour and 22 minutes at the Aoti Tennis Stadium from start to finish as World No.40 Istomin committed a stream of errors and struggled with his serve, making as many as eight double faults.
Somdev, who parterned Sanam Singh for a gold in doubles Monday, was fourth after Leander Paes (Hiroshima 1994), Mahesh Bhupathi (Bangkok, 1998) and Prahlad Srinath (Bangkok 1998) to win a singles medal in tennis at the Asian Games.
With Somdev’s victory, India finished their tennis competition with five medals — two gold, one silver and two bronze medals. In the previous Asiad edition at Doha, India won two golds (men’s doubles, mixed doubles) and two silver medals (women’s singles and team).
The performance stands out in the absence of Leander Paes, Mahesh Bhupathi and Rohan Bopanna, who pulled out of the Asian Games as they are busy playing in the World Tour Finals.
Somdev himself played part in three of those medals. The Commonwealth Games singles gold medallist combined with Sanam to clinch the men’s doubles gold after guiding the men’s team to a bronze medal. Sania Mirza, who won the singles bronze, combined with Vishnu Vardhan for a silver in the mixed doubles event.
The Tripura boy showed amazing stamina throughout the competition, having played 15 matches and losing just one in 11 days.
The Indian was off colour during his scratchy three-set win over fourth-seeded Tatsuma Ito of Japan Monday.
However, the second seed dispelled any doubts over his form this day. The Indian’s cause was boosted by mounting errors from Istomin and he gradually raised his game to make it a lopsided battle. His serve which was left wanting a day before was also on target and he even hit five aces in the match.
The Uzbek was good only in flashes and could never regain his rhythm.
The Indian sprinted to a 5-0 lead and was serving for the first set, but was broken to gift Istomin his first game. He, however, immediatelty broke back to go up a set.
The Uzbek showed signs of resurrection in the beginning of the second set as he fared better on his serve and put pressure on Somdev.
In the fourth game, Somdev had two break points when Istomin’s serve was wrongly called out. A frustrated Uzbek flung his racquet in anger as the Indian surged to a 3-1 lead.
Istomin had his revenge in the next game, notching up three break points. Somdev saved one with a crisp volley but was broken in the second.
The Indian, however, did not allow the momentum to shift. He broke back immediately and consolidated the lead with an easy hold, going up 5-2.
Serving to stay in the match, Istomin faltered again and double-faulted to bring up the match point and then shanked a return to give the Indian the set and the match.