Dear Class of 2008,


Hello from Ahmedabad, India! What's up with you all? I hope everyone is doing well, wherever you are. A quick introduction for those of you who don't know me - I play professional tennis on the ATP tour and I'm from India, where I'm on a break at the moment with family.


I had the time of my life at U.Va., so it's great to be back in touch through this newsletter. My time after college continues to be an ongoing adventure. As an athlete, experiencing success and failure on a weekly (sometimes daily) basis has been humbling and educational. I am fortunate to enjoy my profession. From almost being unranked three years ago to breaking into the top 75 in the world, from playing in parks in random places to getting to every Grand Slam, it's been an emotional roller-coaster that continues to capture me.


Almost immediately after graduating in May 2008, I found myself relying on things I heard a lot of my professors and seniors talking about. Good business advice. This came in handy while trying to find an agent. Very tricky for sure as every agent out there says he can help, but very few really can. What basically happens isn't far from what you see in Jerry McGuire - it's blowing smoke up your backside and making you feel like the greatest thing since sliced bread. However the truth as I brutally learned, is that in tennis, unless you're ranked inside the top 100, you have about as good a chance of getting a good endorsement as your dog. And even once you do break into the top 100, it's not easy. The travel and coaching expenses a young pro needs to bear make it incredibly hard to survive out there. That's where having a good agent becomes a huge asset. Since graduating I have talked to about 10 agencies and have switched agents and management companies 3 times. I am currently represented by an Indian company based out of Mumbai.


Luckily for me, however, my tennis took off pretty fast. I won a couple of smaller events and moved up the rankings relatively quickly. I broke into the top 250 in the world within the first 3 months of being on tour. The initial struggle is usually the worst for most budding pros, and I have my college coaches Brian Boland and Tony Bresky to thank for getting me ready. By January 2009 I had made it to the final of a tour event, participated in my first ever Grand Slam and had broken into the top 150 in the world.


After my breakout year, I found my 2nd year on tour to be way tougher. By this point I felt like I wasn't the new kid on the block anymore, and I wasn't always fresh with energy. I was tired a lot of the time from constantly playing in different countries. And everyone had started to figure out my playing style. The tour was already catching up on me. It was barely a year and I already needed to adapt to survive. I hired a new coach, Scott McCain who's been with me for almost 2 years now. I moved from Charlottesville to Austin to work with him and give it a good shot. With him and the help of my fitness trainer Milos Galecic, who has worked with me since graduation, I broke into the top 100 for the first time in July 2010. For most of you who aren't familiar with tennis talk, one of the biggest achievements for a young pro is to break into the top 100 in the ATP rankings. For me it was one of the greatest feelings of accomplishment at the time.


I have felt a lot more comfortable on tour since then. My 3rd year has been my steadiest yet. I finally started getting used to the routine and understanding what it takes for me to be totally ready on game day. In the 2nd half of 2010 I enjoyed a lot of success playing for India at the Davis Cup, Commonwealth Games and Asian Games. To be able to give my country something to smile and be proud about was surprising and fulfilling.


This year has had its fun moments as well...I had the privilege of playing against arguably two of the greatest players of the game. I played Roger Federer in Febuary and I played Rafael Nadal in March. I didn't beat either of them, but I played well in both matches, especially against Nadal. A few weeks ago I achieved my highest career ranking of 63. I am currently ranked 68 and am working to continue moving up.


Apart from playing tennis, traveling around the world week to week has made me grow up pretty fast. I know it's not a conventional job, but in many ways I feel like I get to see and be a part of a really wide world. Because of tennis I've traveled over half a million miles by flying, driving, taking buses, trains, ferries and boats. I've learned how to greet people and say thank you in over 10 languages. I've been to countless museums all over the globe, gone on safaris in Africa and to crowded local markets in Asia. I've missed flights and tournaments because of volcanoes, troublesome visa procedures, injuries, homecoming football games and Foxfields. I've made fans, I've made friends. I've won some and I've lost some, I've been cheered for and I've been booed at.


The experiences I've had have brought with them a new sense of responsibility, financial and otherwise, which is challenging me to think of how I want to guide myself into the future. What I do for a living is no doubt very unpredictable and occupational hazards like injuries leave a question mark as to where and how it's going to end. But I've embraced that and have decided to let it ride till the end.


I will be back in DC for a tournament in early August. I plan on being back in Charlottesville right after to enjoy the good weather and go tubing down the James...I really miss all that stuff. Hope to see some of you then!


Somdev Devvarman