CHENNAI: For the second year running, local lad and World No 248 Ramkumar Ramanathan has been handed a singles wild card for the January 4-10 Chennai Open. The 21-year-old first captured the crowd’s imagination two years back when he surprised Somdev Devvarman in the first round here. In 2015, both Devvarman and he were allotted wild cards, but this time, he’s the sole Indian to get one. Russia’s Karen Kachanov and Andrey Rublev got the other two.
While he might have slipped from the career-high 208 he reached in June, he won the two previous ITF Futures events in Mumbai and Gwalior to make the cut for the Australian Open qualifiers. The only drawback of a packed schedule: he last worked with coaches Spanish Juan Balcells and Sergio Casal during the September training block. “I’m glad to have gotten the wild card again this year. I’d like to make use of this and win a few rounds and get my confidence going ahead of the Australian Open. Last week, some of us players got together in Coimbatore for practice. It was helpful because I had to stay on the road to gain enough points for the Australian Open qualifiers,” Ramkumar told Express.
Former coach Nandan Bal thinks Ramkumar is coming into his own and feels the wild card is imperative for his ex-charge to keep growing. The positive changes in his game are there for all to see. “If we don’t give our own a wild card, who will? He’s been playing well of late and won the Mumbai Futures a couple of weeks back. There’s a tremendous amount of maturity that wasn’t there two years back... while then he would fight for every point, he now understands the importance of conserving energy. Other improvements in the serve and forehand department are fruits of putting on some muscle. Also, he’s more offensive-minded, willing to finish points at the net,” Bal opined.
Former Davis Cup skipper SP Misra brought Ramkumar on initially as Cup reserve; the sole reason he didn’t play was because of Devvarman and Yuki Bhambri’s form. But Misra feels it’s time Ramkumar made a mark. “He’s a good, hardworking kid and we’ve always had high hopes for him. I hope he gets a decent draw. He’s being promoted by the Tamil Nadu Tennis Association and it’s time he proved himself... playing $10,000 events isn’t going to get him far. Winning and losing is only a mindset, but then so is hunger or lack thereof. He must take that call,” Misra signed off.
4He won 4 ITF Futures crowns this season, all of which were held in India.
52016 will mark his 5th straight appearance at the Chennai Open.
208He reached career-high ranking of World No 208 in June this year.