Devinder Singh's Journey to Asia's No. 1

Devinder Singh's Journey to Asia's No. 1

Devinder Singh's Journey to Asia's No. 1

ITF Under-14 East Asian Circuit – 1999: This was one tournament where I made a mark for myself and for my country. It was a special one for many reasons which I have shared below.  

It was a remarkable tournament as the entire journey was topsy turvy. 

Let me start off with what happened before the tournament.

I was scheduled to leave on Thursday or Friday with the team and just on the preceding Sunday I had some kind of a pain in my ankle while I was practicing. I tried to continue my running routine but the pain persisted. I had to take a break from training sessions because of the injury. I remember discussing with my parents if I should go ahead or not. However we decided to go ahead with the tournament and see how things unravel.

When the ITF South Asian Team, which I was a part of, landed in Bangkok, the on court temperature was 50°C. We had Mr. Suresh Menon as the coach for the boys team and Mr. Mayur Vasant from Mumbai as the coach for the girls team. 

We were scheduled to play two weeks of tournaments. In the first week, I finished as the runner up. But the way in which I won the matches was unbelievable. Out of the five singles matches I played in the first week, I played 4 three setter matches, including the one in the finals. First round, I won 6-4 in the final set against the no. 1 player of Malaysia – Danio Yahaa.  

In the second round and Quarter-finals, I won after being down with a few match points.  I won the semi finals against the Thai’s no.1 player in straight sets, but here too, I won the first set after being down a set point in the first set. 

And in the finals I lost to Vikrant Sane in three sets, my teammate and India no. 1.

I remember in the team meeting at the end of the first week or during the first week the coach actually called me chicken hearted and he said that I only play well when I am trailing and close to losing a match.  

The coaches during the tour work with all of us. I remember they got me to be a little more aggressive, they asked me to go to the volley more often and of course got me to be positive in the second week. 

With some minor tweaks and modifications, I ended up winning the second tournament and guess what!!.. I won all the matches in straight sets, except the finals.

As a result of my consistent performance over the two weeks I topped the ITF East Asian Rankings. The newspapers back home called it the top of the Asian U-14 rankings or Asia no. 1. – which was fantastic. This felt unusually incredible for two reasons; one being I almost cancelled the tournament because of the injury and the other one was I was constantly losing match points in my initial games.

Here are the major lessons I learnt from my performance. 

In the very first week I was mentally tough and I would not give up. This had a lot to do with my physical training and my running routine. Everyday after my practice and training sessions I would run at least 10 laps around the 7 courts from Monday to Friday and on Saturday, it would be 25 laps! I would do this, irrespective of how tired, ill or fatigued I was. More than physical training, it was a mental discipline of not giving up ever, that was instilled in me. So even if I was a set point down or match point down, I would keep fighting. Even if it is 50°C! 

This also made me realise what a good coach and their guidance can do to a player’s game. The tactical tips, the mindset change that the coaches brought about during the tournament were extremely crucial. The scores and the way I won the matches in the 2nd week were so much better than the first week. This made me understand the value of efficient coaches and their support while travelling for tournaments. 

So what a journey!  From almost contemplating cancelling the tournament to being on the  top of the rankings and being Asia’s No. 1 player U-14 in a matter of weeks was quite astounding. 

This brings about great feelings of pride and satisfaction. And the improvement and transformation the coaches brought about in me during those 15 days has been very motivating and inspiring for me in many ways. Now when I travel with my players, the experience at Bangkok pushes me to encourage my players to put in their best efforts irrespective of the circumstance. It also helps me make a positive difference to their game. 


Tennis has taught me many significant lessons of life. One of which is to persevere and never give up irrespective of the circumstances. My journey from being a promising national player to Asia’s No.1 player was quite a roller coaster. From almost contemplating cancelling the tournament to being on the  top of the rankings and being Asia’s No. 1 player U-14 in a matter of weeks was quite astounding.