TULSA, Okla. Somdev Devvarman (Chennai, India) concluded his collegiate career Monday by winning his second consecutive NCAA Singles Championship with a 6-3, 6-2 win over J.P. Smith of Tennessee in the 2008 final at the Michael D. Case Tennis Center. Devvarman needed barely an hour to win the match and complete a resume that ranks among the greatest in collegiate tennis history.
With the victory, Devvarman becomes the 13th player in the 124-year history of the tournament to win consecutive titles, and just the fourth to do so in the past 50 years. He joins Georgia’s Mikael Pernfors (1984 and 1985) and Matias Boeker (2001 and 2002) to win consecutive NCAA Singles Championships since the current 64-player tournament format was adopted in 1977. Devvarman becomes the first player since USC’s Dennis Ralston (1963 and 1964) to win consecutive titles without winning at least one of them on his home courts. He also joins Arizona State’s Sargin Sargsian (1995) and UCLA’s Benjamin Kohlloeffel (2006) as the only players to win the ITA National Indoor Singles Championship and NCAA Singles Championship in the same season. The win was also his 18th career NCAA Singles Tournament victory, extending his record for most in the current tournament format.
“There was a little bit of a different feel this year than last year,” said Devvarman. “Last year there was a bigger crowd and it was No. 1 vs. No. 2 instead of No. 1 vs. an unseeded player. But that didn’t change how I prepared for the match. I was focused and played well. This one is probably more special because it came in my last match as a Cavalier.”
The match against Smith, the first unseeded player to reach the final since Virginia’s Brian Vahaly in 2001, was close early in the first set. Neither player had a chance to break until Devvarman took advantage of the match’s first break point opportunity to take a 5-3 lead. He held serve in the ensuing game to win the first set 6-3.
In the second set, Devvarman’s momentum continued as he won a five-deuce game to break Smith’s serve in the first game of the set. After holding in his first service game, he broke Smith’s serve again to lead 3-0. He held that two-break advantage the remainder of the set and closed out the 6-3, 6-2 win.
“Somdev came into this match really prepared and focused,” said head coach Brian Boland. “As he has all week long, his serve really helped him today. He was able to win a lot of free points because of it. Early on, J.P. was serving well too. But as the match went along, he got fewer first serves in and Somdev was able to take advantage of it, hitting the ball deep and keeping J.P. off the net where he likes to play. It was on serve at 4-3 in the first when J.P. had a bit of a loose game and Somdev broke him. That was the turning point because it gave Somdev all the momentum and he never gave it up.”
Devvarman ends the season with a 44-1 singes record, tying the school record for wins in a season he set a year before. He is believed to be the first NCAA Singles Champion to finish the season with one or fewer losses since UCLA’s Jimmy Connors went undefeated in 1971. Since then, NCAA Champions have included Georgia’s Pernfors, Stanford’s John McEnroe, Stanford’s Tim Mayotte, and Texas’s Kevin Curren, all of whom went on to be ranked in the world top 20, but lost multiple times in college during their championship season.
“To end my career like this is very special,” said Devvarman. “I wasn’t just playing for myself, I was playing for Virginia for the last time. I was playing for my teammates and my coaches too. The loss in the team tournament was so hard to take, but this was the best way to try to cheer everyone up a little bit.”
Devvarman ends his Cavalier career with a 158-27 career singles record, setting the school record for career victories. He was 88-6 over his final two seasons at Virginia. Devvarman concluded his career on a school record 36-match winning streak.
“I can’t imagine any program having someone represent it better than Somdev Devvarman represented the University of Virginia,” said Boland. “He is a better person than a tennis player and that is saying a lot because he is an incredible player. The guy loves this school. He bleeds orange and blue. His legacy with be with us forever. Having seen for four years how he handles himself and goes about his game, I know he will have a very successful career as a pro.”
The final will be broadcast by the Tennis Channel on a tape delay basis. Currently, the network’s schedule lists the match as airing at 8 p.m. on Monday, June 9.