NEW DELHI Somdev Devvarman, the flag bearer for Indian men's tennis, kept his country's hopes alive at the Australian Open with a 6-3 6-2 6-3 opening round victory over Germany's Bjorn Phau on Monday.
The 27-year-old from Assam served four aces and made just one unforced error in a Court 10 match against Phau that lasted an hour and 50 minutes.
It was the first ATP event meeting between Devvarman and 33-year-old Phau, ranked 78 in the world.
The right-handed Devvarman missed most of the tennis season in 2012 due to a shoulder injury that has seen him slip to 551 in the world. He had reached a career-high singles ranking of 62 in July 2011 after turning pro in 2008.
Devvarman would be hoping to do one better than reaching the second round in a Grand Slam, having made the same stage at the U.S. Open in 2009 and Wimbledon in 2011. Next up for Devvarman is 24th seed Jerzy Janowicz of Poland.
Yuki Bhambri, the only other Indian in the singles competition at the Australian Open, lost in the first round of the qualifying event over the weekend.
If Devvarman loses in the second round, Indian interest at the year's opening tennis Grand Slam will be restricted to the doubles events where Leander Paes, Mahesh Bhupathi, Rohan Bopanna and Sania Mirza are in the fray.
Devvarman is one of eight Indian players who had submitted a list of demands to the All India Tennis Association (AITA) with a threat to snub a regional Davis Cup tie against South Korea in February. Leander Paes will spearhead a second-string Indian team in the tie after the rebelling players did not commit to playing in the team event.
(Writing by Tony Tharakan; Editing by Sudipto Ganguly)