India tennis star Devvarman courts revenge

WASHINGTON: India's Somdev Devvarman booked a chance to avenge a stinging defeat by ousting fellow qualifier Yuichi Sugita of Japan 6-0, 7-6 (8/6) in a first-round match at the ATP Washington Classic.

Devvarman advanced to a second-round match Tuesday with Croatian sixth seed Marin Cilic, who defeated the hometown hero 6-4, 7-6 (7/3) in January's Chennai final to spoil the 24-year-old US college star's first ATP championship match.

"I'm looking forward to facing him again," said Devvarman, who relished the memory of playing in his homeland.

"That feels incredible," he said. "To see your family all around, to play on those courts at a tournament you've been watching since you were 10, that makes it special."

Devvarman, ranked 153rd after reaching a career-high 127th two weeks ago, won US national college crowns in 2007 and 2008 at the nearby University of Virginia. He is 6-2 in ATP play this year, including a 4-1 showing at Chennai.

"I'm a better player than last year," Devvarman said. "I was fresh from school last year. I have more experience playing under adversity. That's what makes you a better player."

A year playing among the tennis elite has spurred Devvarman's game, pushing him to become stronger through more workouts, hit the ball deeper and serve smarter.

"It's about going through the ups and downs and learning from that. It has been challenging," Devvarman said.

"I'm just physically a lot stronger. I'm playing higher percentage tennis. That is helping me make gains."

Devvarman won the first set off Sugita in 20 minutes and took the first nine games of the match before his rival rallied, taking advantage of his only break points to win four games in a row before they held into a streaky tie-breaker.

Devvarman lost the first two points of the tie-breaker, won the next four, then surrendered four points in a row to give Sugita two set points. That's when Devvarman captured the last four points to end the 85-minute match.

"I should have done a better job finishing off the match," Devvarman said. "I definitely let my foot off the pedal. I let him into the match but give him some credit too, fighting back to give himself some good looks at a third set."