Devvarman out but India's hope happy with Roddick effect

By Martyn Herman

PARIS (Reuters) - Somdev Devvarman's French Open adventure ended on Sunday when he lost a topsy-turvy first round match against Swiss Marco Chiudinelli.

India's first male to play in the main singles draw at Roland Garros for 13 years bowed out 6-3 3-6 6-3 3-6 6-3 but the Texas-based 25-year-old is convinced that he is close to breaking into the world's top 100.

Having former world number one Andy Roddick as his practice partner certainly helps his chances.

"We are on different schedules but I play with Andy whenever I can," Devvarman, who grew up playing on "slippery clay courts" in Chennai before studying in the U.S., told Reuters.

"When his tournament starts in Roland Garros I'll probably be watching from the stands. We spent the last two off-seasons together and trained hard with him.

"It's fun to watch a guy who's been top 10 eight years running. To see what he goes through and how much work he puts in and how intense he is. He kind of leads me by example.

"It's great to see a guy like that go to work."

World number 109 Devvarman, who came through qualifying here, as he did before reaching the second round at last year's U.S. Open, said he hoped his progress would help India produce more players capable of contesting grand slams.

However, he plays down his role as a flag bearer for Indian men's tennis despite being passionate about the Davis Cup in which India face Brazil later this year.

"Of course I'm representing my country every time I go on court," Devvarman, who got hooked on tennis by watching Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras on TV, said. "But more importantly I'm out there competing for myself.

"It's more about realizing that all the effort I put in has paid off. It's good if people pay attention.

"India has three players in the top 400 now but we can't stop. I hope that me doing better will inspire some more young kids to play the game."

(Editing by Miles Evans)