Devvarman cruises into final
Johannesburg - Rising Indian star Somdev Devvarman was never seriously troubled as he defeated local Izak van der Merwe 6-2, 6-4 on Saturday to reach the South African Open final.
A couple of early first-set service breaks set him up for a showdown with either South African Kevin Anderson or Frenchman Adrian Mannarino, the two surviving seeds from a shock-littered tournament.
It will be the second appearance in an ATP World Tour final for the native of Guwahati, after he lost to Croatia's Marin Cilic in straight sets in Chennai two seasons ago.
Devvarman is a bogey man for South Africans, defeating Rik de Voest and Van der Merwe in a 2009 Davis Cup play-off, and also seeing off both players this week at the Montecasino entertainment centre north of Johannesburg.
"I took my chances today while Izak did not serve too well. As for beating South Africans, I'm sorry," said the reigning Commonwealth Games and Asian Games men's singles champion.
"It has been so enjoyable playing in this tournament, and I look forward to a great final, possibly against another South African," he added, referring to fourth seed Anderson.
Devvarman, from the Assam region in north-east India, started as favourite to reach the decider, as he had won all three previous encounters against Van der Merwe.
And he wasted little time winning the first set, breaking serve in the first and third games as an increasingly cloudy sky made the hot mid-summer conditions more bearable.
Van der Merwe had a chance to hit straight back in the second game, as he sought a first final appearance on the tour, but Devvarman salvaged two break points.
Devvarman delivered his second blow in the third game, which lasted more than 10 minutes, clinching it on his fourth break point as he competently handled the booming Van der Merwe serve.
The next five games went with serve to give the 25-year-old Indian the set, and quieten a fast-filling centre-court crowd dreaming of a first all-local South African Open final in 18 years.
Van der Merwe and Devvarman each held serve for their first three games of the next set, before Devvarman broke again in the seventh when his opponent ended a rally with a tame shot into the net.
That proved decisive as the next three games went with serve, and the Indian was through to a final where 76,500 dollars and 250 ATP points are on offer to the champion.