Devvarman happy in defeat
Indian qualifier Somdev Devvarman ended a dream run at the Indian Wells ATP tournament on a high, despite losing 7-5 6-4 to world number one Rafa Nadal in the fourth round.
Devvarman has long admired the Spanish left-hander and he endeared himself to the evening crowd at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden with a plucky display against Nadal, especially in the opening set.
"After the first couple of games, I felt normal ... like I was just out there playing a match," the 26-year-old from Assam told reporters after becoming the first Indian to reach the fourth round of the elite ATP Masters 1000 event.
"I didn't think about who I was facing. I started out well, too, so I felt very comfortable on the court.
"I was excited to play and the best part is I had played good tennis leading into this match. It was a great experience to play the number one player in the world in one of the biggest stadiums in the world."
The Indian world number 84, who is based in Texas, broke the Spaniard in the first game of the match and forced two break points in the 11th before losing the first set in just over an hour.
Nadal, who began poorly by his usual standards, raised his performance in the second before sealing victory in the decisive 10th game where he broke Devvarman's serve with a sublime forehand pass.
"I had my chances," said the Indian, who struck gold in the men's singles at last year's Commonwealth Games in Delhi.
"I played my way to a point where I felt like I had opportunities to win the first set. I was pleased by the way I competed. I wasn't over-awed by the situation or the guy I was playing against.
"You only get a couple opportunities to play these kinds of players," added Devvarman, who upset 19th-seeded Cypriot Marcos Baghdatis 7-5 6-0 in the second round.
While disappointed with his sub-par display in the opening set, Nadal applauded the Indian's run to the fourth round.
"For sure, he did well and had a very good tournament," the Spaniard said. "He had a very, very good victory over Xavier Malisse (in the third round) and I wish him all the best for the rest of the season."
Nadal was brutally honest in assessing his own form on the night.
"I played really bad, especially in the beginning," the 24-year-old said. "I wasn't able to play aggressive with my forehand.
"I was playing much better in the second set. For sure not perfect, but you have to come back after a terrible first set and (with) the mental situation is difficult to change a lot.
"The second set was correct, it wasn't a bad second set. That's the most positive thing. I played much better in the end of the match than in the beginning."