CHENNAI // India hailed Somdev Devvarman as their next big hope, a day after he put the country back into the Davis Cup's top-tier world group. Devvarman came back from two sets down to beat Rik de Voest in four hours and 38 minutes in the reverse singles to give India a winning 3-1 lead over South Africa in the World Group play-off in Johannesburg. Junior Australian champion Yuki Bhambri wrapped up the tie by beating Izak van der Merwe.
India, who last played in the world group in 1998, had advanced after Australia forfeited their Asia-Oceania tie in Chennai, citing security concerns. Devvarman, the world No 133 who made it to the second round of the US Open earlier this month, won both his singles matches to lead the team in the absence of the experienced Leander Paes, who missed the tie with injury. The other veteran, Mahesh Bhupathi, had conceded the doubles tie, a day earlier, owing to a groin injury.
Devvarman was also runner-up at the Chennai Open, an ATP event, in January. His resurgence comes at a time when India are looking for someone to supplement the two veterans. "To come back from being two sets down shows that he has a lot of mental strength," said Paes. "Somdev is the future of Indian tennis. Full credit to him for winning two singles matches in the five-match rubber. And that too abroad."