PUNE: Hours after completing a 6000km journey from Kobe in Japan to Pune, Ramkumar Ramanathan is back at the practice courts, fine-tuning his game for his last tournament of the season.Even though the 25-year-old is fresh off a doubles win in Kobe, it has been a rough year on the singles circuit, which remains his priority.
“It has been a tough year,” says Ramkumar on the sidelines of the KPIT Pune ATP Challenger on the eve of his opening match. “Tough draws, close matches... But the only way is to keep going. I just have to keep believing in myself and enjoying every day.”
A feisty player with a big serve, Ramkumar was ranked 128 in the world in February. His season lost momentum by the middle of the year, and a lower ranking meant he had to play more Challenger events than try to make some big points at the ATP meets. The Chennai player, who made three ATP main draws this year (Pune, Dubai, Newport), reached the second round in Newport, where he had made the final last year. In the Challengers, his best performances were semifinal finishes at Glasgow and Nanchang, China.
“Maybe this year I didn’t have the big wins,” says Ramkumar, who had beaten Dominic Thiem, ranked No 8 in the world then, in Turkey in 2017 and stormed into the final of the grass-court ATP event in Newport in 2018. “That’s because I didn’t play as many ATP events as I would have liked. Players in Challengers are just as tough, but maybe they aren’t as big names.
“I played the semis in Glasgow, I should have won that, it was unfortunate. I lost 6-4 in third. I was serving for the first set, lost that, then I won the second set and lost the third. It was a very good week because the level was really high. I played some good matches. The week after, I played the same guy (Alexandre Muller) in the first round and beat him. It comes down to those little things in tight situations.”
Even though he had it tough in singles, Ramkumar won two titles in doubles. He won the Guzzini (Italy) Challenger in July with Goncalo Oliveira and picked up some confidence with a victory at the Kobe Challenger with Purav Raja.
“To play on the last day of the tournament,” he says. “Purav has been teaching me a lot of new things, plus playing doubles improves my serve and volley game. I have always enjoyed playing doubles.”
Ramkumar will wrap up his season at the Pune Challenger and is hoping for a good training block during off-season to recharge for 2020. “I’m still inside the top-200,” says the player, who is currently ranked 190. “Making the main draw of a Grand Slam and breaking into the top-100 are the main goals going into the season. I have been very close, but somehow it’s still not happened.”