India No. 2 Ramkumar Ramanathan started 2018 off on the right note, as he overcame 107th ranked Roberto Carballes Baena from Spain in straight sets to set up a meeting with World No. 6 and top seed Marin Cilic.
On his upcoming meeting with Cilic, Ram said “I respect him a lot. But that wouldn’t matter when I step onto the court. What you can expect from me is a fighting performance. I will battle for each point.”
A decent crowd turned up to watch our players in action
The first set was like watching two Spanish clay courters battle it out from the baseline on a court that is not made for them. Ramkumar, having spent his formative years in Barcelona, has that slight Spanish touch in his game. He was every now and then trying to break the rhythm of his opponent, rushing to the net at every opportunity. But the entire set went on serve, and there was hardly a threat of a break. with the only couple of opportunities coming for Ram, first in a long 4th game, and then in the 8th game. In the tiebreak, Ramkumar stepped up with his forehand, using it aggressively to take an early 4-1 lead. But the joy was short-lived for the lad from Chennai, as he handed the mini-break back, and the score was 4-4. But Ramkumar ran away with the next three points, with his trademark fist pumps to the crowd on display for the first time in the evening.
The second set was all about Ram enthralling the crowd, increasing his forays to the net. He used the “chip and charge” technique to perfect effect, as he made Baena scramble from one part of the court to the other. He broke his opponent twice, once in the very first game of the set, and then at 4-2. Backed by some imperious serving, he closed out the set at 6-2.
When asked about the changed approach in the 2nd set, Ram said “When you are a set and a break up, it gives you the confidence to try a lot of things. I am glad it went well. I served out the match pretty well too.”
[R1] (WC) Ramkumar Ramanathan (IND,148) beat Roberto Carballes Baena (ESP,107) 7-6(4) 6-2
TWO HEARTBREAKING LOSSES IN DOUBLES –
It was a disappointing day for the Indian contingent in the doubles draw though, as both our pairs met identical fates in very similar matches. Wildcard pairings of Vishnu/Balaji and Kadhe/Paire were both up against much more fancied pairs, but they lost way after playing out dominating first sets. Vishnu and Balaji, in particular, had a good chance to close out the 2nd set, after winning the first. The duo had 3 break points throughout the course of the set, but managed to grab none of them. Later on in the 2nd set tiebreak, they made an amazing comeback, backed by a vocal crowd, from 2-6 down, only to lose it 8-10 in the end.
[R1] (WC) N Sriram Balaji/Vishnu Vardhan (IND/IND) lost to A. Shamasdin/N. Skupski (CAN/GBR) 6-3 6-7(8) 6-10
[R1] (WC) Arjun Kadhe/Benoit Paire(IND,FRA) lost to (2) Robin Haase/Matwe Middelkoop(NED/NED) 6-1 5-7 7-10