Through slump and surge, Ramkumar ends year on a high

Despite poor performances in the last two months, Chennai lad reaches career-best ranking of 146 from being World No 227 a year ago

Published: 03rd November 2017 02:43 AM  |   Last Updated: 03rd November 2017 11:14 AM   |  A+A-

Express News Service

CHENNAI: Ramkumar Ramanathan has had an interesting 2017. A maiden final on the Challenger Tour was followed by a sensational win over Dominic Thiem. That paved the way for a run to the R32 stage at a Masters event. His career, it seemed, was finally headed towards realising all that potential.

However, a downturn in fortunes has blanketed his game in the last two months. Since that second round appearance at the Cincinnati Masters in August, form hasn’t been his best friend. A creditable showing against Canada in the Davis Cup notwithstanding, Ramkumar has had a bad ending to the season – he has won one match across the last four competitions.

But there was good news for the Chennai lad when the new rankings came out on Monday. It said ‘146’ against Ramkumar Ramanathan. His best in his short career. It’s one of the reasons why the 22-year-old sums up his 2017 as ‘decent’.

“It’s been a long one,” he says to Express. “I played lots of tournaments and thankfully, I have remained injury-free. I have picked up valuable experience on the way. Overall, it has been decent.”
He spends a fair amount of time on rankings and even if he doesn’t intend to, it reveals the cut-throat nature of the sport at the highest level.  “I just have to keep playing more and more tournaments to get myself up to a higher level. Every player in the sport is working towards getting into the top 100.
“But I feel every year, there are only 10 players who get into the club. To be one of those 10 is
extremely hard but I am working on it.”

The defeat of Thiem in June is an example. He was a serve bot that day and the Austrian, who will feature at the year-end ATP Finals in London, might have tapped out had rules allowed it. “
That was a great experience for me,” Ramkumar says. “I didn’t expect that but as the match went on... I knew I was always going to be in with a chance if I served well. It’s always good to play matches like those because if you know you are capable of beating the likes of Thiem, you know you can compete against players at a very high level.”

Davis Cup coach Zeeshan Ali agrees with the assessment that Ramkumar has had a decent season, but the loss of form over the last two months has not escaped his attention. “He had a good season but hasn’t been all that consistent I think,” he says.

“He played really well in one event, then there is a gap before he again plays well in another meet. Saying that, he is a more mature player now than last year.”

The rankings – not everyone’s cup of tea – validates that claim. He was No 227 exactly 364 days ago.  
Tangible improvement. The new year – he will most likely begin at the Maharashtra Open in Pune – will reveal whether he has it in him to kick on.

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