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Throwback Thursday: Serving it up with Somdev Devvarman

Davis Cup World Group Play-Off Photo by Ravi Choudhary/Hindustan Times via Getty Images

We’re back with another edition of Throwback Thursday coming at you from former Virginia Men’s Tennis legend Somdev Devvarman!

You, of course, remember Somdev. He won back-to-back men’s tennis singles national championship titles in 2007 and 2008, having taken down John Isner in the finals in 2007, and making a 48-1 run in 2008. He was only the 13th player to ever go back-to-back. For good measure, he was also the runner up in 2006 and won a bunch of other ITA titles as well.

That is to say, he was a pretty amazing collegiate athlete. He was inducted into the ITA Men’s Collegiate Hall of Fame in 2019.

His career didn’t stop there though. He would spend another decade in the pros, including competing in the 2012 Olympic Games in London as a wildcard. (How many Olympians have we featured in our Throwback Thursday series now??)

He was ranked as high as No. 62 in Singles and No. 139 in Doubles, and retired from the sport in 2016.

Note: This has been slightly edited.

Streaking the Lawn: What are some of the highlights of what you’ve done since UVA, and what are you doing now?

Somdev Devvarman: Playing on the ATP tour for almost 8 years and representing India were definitely highlights of my Pro Career since I graduated. That’s professionally. On the personal front I got married last year, which has been amazing. I’ve dabbled with different start-ups and have had varying degrees of success and failure. I’ve coached a little bit and plan on continuing to do so for a few years. I run a charity for the not-so-privileged kids in India and provide them free sports programs. I am also at the start of a career as a sportscaster/analyst/commentator for sports channels and networks in India. So, staying busy has continued to be the norm since I retired from the pro tour in February 2016.

STL: What are you doing during this quarantine period to keep yourself busy and/or entertained?

Indian Sports and Fitness Photo by Sonu Mehta/Hindustan Times via Getty Images

SD: I’ve always been into music. Even when I was a student, I used to do open mic nights at Baja Bean quite regularly (not sure Baja Bean is still around) along with the random appearance at Coupe’s. During the lockdown I’ve enjoyed playing the guitar and writing some of my own songs as well. Usually I travel a lot for different work related stuff.

Since I got married to the love of my life just over a year ago, we are quite happy staying home in Chennai with our two dogs and spending time with each. Among the various interests we both share, painting for her, and music for me have been the highlights for us during this lockdown.

STL: Have you been able to keep up with any of your training?

SD: Luckily I don’t have to. Since I retired from pro tennis a little over four years ago, I don’t really work out with the same intensity that I used to. Now I just workout to stay in shape and feel healthy and luckily for us, that’s easy enough to do even through the lockdown.

STL: If you could have been an athlete in another sport at Virginia, which would you choose, and would you be a starter?

SD: I don’t think I could have played any other sport at Virginia. No way. I’ve been to enough football and basketball games to know that I could never do that. I’m a terrible golfer and I can’t swim. Track and field would be out of the question, Perhaps soccer, because I grew up playing a little, but even still, I would be a long way away from making the team. I guess I just got lucky to make it on the tennis team. (Eds. Note: Says the guy who won a billion national championships on the tennis team, yes, he was just “lucky,”)

STL: What is your favorite UVA sports memory, either as a fan or a player?

SD: As a fan, one of the highlights would have to be when Virginia beat Florida State in Football in 2005. Marques Hagans was the QB and I knew him a little, and it was all so exciting for me. I remember rushing the field and having a blast with my friends as we watched the game from the hill.

The next best moment would have to be Sean Singletary making that shot to beat Duke! I remember that the tennis team was traveling at the time, so we weren’t at JPJ to rush the floor, but the entire team was huddled into a hotel room and we watched it together and we all went nuts! What a crazy time!

STL: Which coach or teacher had the greatest impact on you while at UVA?

SD: Obviously both my coaches, Brian Boland and Tony Bresky, had the biggest role to play in my tennis. If it weren’t for them, I wouldn’t have stood a chance. My strength coach Shad Pospahala in my first few years had a big impact on me as well, both in making me a better athlete, and in helping me grow up with the right values.

Apart from the tennis and fitness, the most important person for me would undoubtedly be Professor Donald Black. I was a Sociology Major, and to be quite honest, my interest in the subject, as well as my approach to learning things was very much shaped by the influence Professor Black had on me. He was kind, understanding, incredibly entertaining and theatrical and was an absolutely brilliant professor. The way he approached me personally, as a student, and the conversations we had, have made a bigger impact on me than even he could ever imagine. I really hope I can come back and meet with him again someday, perhaps surprise him at his office hours and just thank him for being an incredible teacher.

STL: Do you have any career advice for current students or recent alumni?

SD: I have never thought of myself as qualified enough to give advice to anyone, or a group of people, mainly because I have made too many mistakes in my own life. I’m just happy to have had the opportunity to learn from those mistakes and grow as a person because of that, and I hope others do as well.

STL: What do you see that current UVA student-athletes have on Grounds that you wish you had (facilities, resources, coach)?

SD: I had it about as close to perfect in my eyes. My team, my coaches, the training room, strength and conditioning, friends, classes, social life, sports, you name it. I guess my perspective also came from a different place because I was just really happy to have the opportunities I had coming from India. I knew I was fortunate. So no, I’ve never felt that I didn’t have something I needed during my time at UVA. Maybe the kids there now can look back and say, ‘04-’08, those were the good ol’ days, because that’s how I feel about it.

STL: What is your favorite Charlottesville restaurant?

SD: Milan on 29 for Indian food!

STL: A bonus question from Danny Hultzen last time! How many times have you streaked the lawn?

SD: Enough times to be a Wahoo for life. TJ would be proud.