Devvarman serves tennis warning in South Africa

Johannesburg: Commonwealth Games and Asian Games tennis champion Somdev Devvarman of India broke serve three times to overcome local Raven Klaasen 6-4, 6-3 Monday in a South African Open first-round clash.

German Simon Greul and South African Rik de Voest were other winners as the 442,500-dollar ATP event began with three predictable results at the sprawling Montecasino entertainment centre in a plush northern Johannesburg suburb.

All eight seeds had the day off with number one Feliciano Lopez from Spain visiting a rhinoceros and lion park near the South African financial hub and number seven Rainer Schuettler of Germany involved in a Soweto coaching clinic.

Devvarman, who struck Commonwealth gold in New Delhi last October and Asian gold in Chinese city Guangzhou the following month, always had the measure of qualifier Klaasen.

The first service break gave the 25-year-old Indian the opening set before a modest crowd that watched the action in perfect conditions on a centre court created in a car park.

Another break in the second set set up Devvarman for success and a Klaasen ace when 30-15 behind in the ninth game did not prevent his opponent breaking service again and clinching an 83-minute victory.

Ranked 110 in the world, 2010 South African Open quarter-finalist Devvarman is 197 places above Klaasen, who found the advantages of home support and being more used to playing in a city 1,800 metres above sea level were not enough.

A larger repertoire of strokes and greater composure in key moments were key factors for Devvarman, who helped India defeat South Africa in a 2009 Davis Cup tie that dashed the hosts` hopes of promotion to the top-tier world group.

The second round promises a much tougher assignment for the native of Assam in north-east India with number three seed Janko Tipsarevic from Serbia his likely opponent.

Tipsarevic will be among seven seeds in action Tuesday when he faces Jesse Huta Galung from the Netherlands and it would be a shock if he failed to reach the last-16 phase of an event offering a 76,500-dollar first prize.

Stuttgart-based Greul, who turns 30 this year, is ranked 48 places higher than Brazilian Thiago Alves and it showed as he was seldom extended en route to a 6-2, 7-5 victory.

Closest duel of the opening day was the first with wild card De Voest being taken to three sets by Italian Stefano Galvani before emerging a 6-3, 5-7, 7-6 (8/6) victor of a game that began in sunshine and ended under floodlights.

Milan-born De Voest, who might have anticipated a quicker passage than 161 minutes given his 138-place rankings advantage, attributed the triumph to "greater high-altitude knowledge" and "crowd motivation".

Bureau Report