CHENNAI: Coming into the Hall of Fame Tennis Championships at Rhode Island, Ramkumar Ramanathan wasn’t in the greatest of form. He had gone 33 days without a win at any level of competitive tennis. After going down to Marcel Granollers in the quarterfinals of the Nature Valley Open at Nottingham in three tight sets on June 15, losing had become contagious for him. Four first round exits followed — Fuzion 100 Ilkley Trophy, Wimbledon (qualifying), Guzzini Challenger and Nielsen Pro Tennis Championship. For a still 23-year-old like Ramkumar, this is a run that might have destabilised his entire US swing. Not this time, though.
“I just refocussed and kept believing in myself,” he told Express from Newport. Much of this belief and focus, he says, is down to the parts played by his coaches, Emilio Sanchez and Angel Gimenez. “My coaches spoke to me before the beginning of the ATP 250 event here and that gave me confidence.” He openly admits to have had a ‘rough few weeks’ because of ‘losing close matches every week’. That little pep talk gave him the necessary ammunition to refocus his energy at Newport.
He reckons that surviving a close second round match (4-6, 6-3, 6-4) against eighth seed Denis Kudla gave him added belief and confidence. The reward? His first ever — and a first by an Indian men’s player on Tour since Somdev Devvarman in 2011 — final on the World Tour. He was bested by World No 48 Steve Johnson 7-5, 3-6, 6-2 in the summit clash but he isn’t too bothered about losing the chance to be part of the history books (Leander Paes was the last Indian man to win a title at this level). “Making a final of a Tour event is not easy... I am delighted to have made it,” he said.
While the mental aspect played a big role, Ramkumar also went into Newport — only professional meet played on grass in the whole of North America — wanting to concentrate on one of his big weapons. “My serve,” he points out. “My serve was good and that is always key for me. If I don’t lose serve, I know that I am always in with a chance.” Couple that with his powerful forehand winners from the baseline, momentum was with him.
In the five matches, he dropped serve only seven times, with three of those coming in the final. The run has also taken him to the cusp of the top-100 and it is his next target. “I am close to it, now I just need to keep pushing. I have been here once before (he was World No 115 in April of this year as well)... maybe this time I can go past that and break into the top-100.” If he does well at the Atlanta Open (his opening round match is against Taylor Fritz on Tuesday) he may just do that.