India’s Rohan Bopanna and Ramkumar Ramanathan won their second ATP World Tour title together after pipping the top seeded Australian pair of Luke Saville and John-Patrick Smith in the final of the Maharashtra Open in Pune on Sunday.
The Indians erased the first set deficit to win 6-7(10) 6-3 10-6 in one hour and 44 minutes.
Bopanna and Ramkumar combined as a team on the ATP Tour for the first time at the Adelaide event last month in the run-up to the Australian Open and won the trophy.
Later in the night, Portuguese star Joao Sousa continued his brilliant run in the tournament as he clinched his first singles title since 2018, beating Finninsh youngster Emil Ruusuvuori 7-6 (11-9), 4-6, 6-1 in a hard-fought summit clash.
Regarded as the best Portuguese player of all time, the former World No 28 Sousa, once again proved his mettle when he kept his cool despite an intense first two sets to win the third clinically. It was also Sousa’s fourth ATP title in his career.
For Bopanna, it was his 21st ATP doubles title while for Ramkumar it was second trophy at this level and it will push him inside doubles top-100 for the first time in his career.
They split $16370 as prize money and earned 250 ranking points each.
Bopanna had won this event with compatriot Divij Sharan in 2019.
Big serves marked the beginning of the contest with only Ramkumar and Luke losing a point each in the first four games.
Bopanna’s volley error on a return from Luke made it 30-all in the fifth game but Ramkumar pulled off an ace and followed that up with another huge serve to hold for a 3-2 lead.
The Indian team had got a chance to break Patrick-Smith’s serve in the next game when Luke made an error while attempting an overhead volley at 40-30 but the opportunity could not be utilised as the Australian pulled of a big serve on the deuce point.
The Australians also created break opportunity on Ramkumar’s serve in the ninth game when they found two service return winners and the Indian serving a doubler fault at 40-30 but the home team managed to hold.
A comfortable hold at love by Patrick-Smith made it 5-5.
Eventually a tie-break was required for deciding the first set. Both the teams had a number of set points as the Indians squandered two chances and the Australians three before converting their fourth.
They got the chance when Bopanna made an unforced error at 10-all and Ramkumar netted a forehand on set point.
In the second set, the Indian duo needed a good start and they got it by breaking Luke’s serve in the third game when the Australian made a volley error on deuce point.
Bopanna saved a break chance on his serve in the next game to keep their nose ahead. Patrick-Smith was serving to stay in the set in the ninth game and was broken to allow the Indian team force a Super Tie Breaker.
At 30-all, an engrossing rally ensued between the two pairs. Luke blinked to give Indian first set point which they converted when Bopanna dispatched a volley winner with ease. Bopanna and Ramkumar dominated the STB to secure the title.
In the semifinal, the duo who have been dubbed as Team RamBo, sealed a thrilling win over Sadio Doumbia and Fabien Reboul at the Balewadi Stadium in Pune on Saturday.
Aiming to win their second title of the year, the star Indian duo outlasted the French pair, making a sensational comeback in the tie-breaker to wrap up the match 4-6, 6-4, 12-10. The Indians saved three match points in the Super Tiebreak.
Bopanna and Ramkumar both made it a point to stress on the importance of having fans cheering them on them in the last two matches, saying that it helped them carry through tough moments in the match. Asked if this is a pair that we will see in India’s upcoming Davis Cup tie in Delhi against Denmark, they remained coy about that, saying it would depend on the captain’s call and team combinations. The tie will be held at the grass courts of Delhi Gymkhana Club on March 4 and 5, inside a bio-secure bubble.
Still going strong at an age of 41, Bopanna said it’s his years of playing experience that is helping him out in the circuit.
“A lot is to do with experience, which you really bring in, years and years of experience and the biggest thing is my body is feeling very very good at the moment,” Bopanna said after the match.
“I did a lot of yoga which has helped me tremendously and I am very thankful to my Yoga Teacher (Mohan) in Bangalore which has made such a difference for me and I can try something new at this age.
“It has made a difference and that really shows as long as I am playing matches, competing and doing something that is physically appealing. May be at the practice court I may not be giving my 100% but as long as I am feeling good and go out their and enjoying the pace as currently right now.”
Asked to compare the two titles that they have won together, Bopanna said performing before the home crowd was special.
“Both are extremely special but anytime you win a title at home it’s lot more pressures. In Adelaide no one was really watching, but here there were lot more expectations and especially coming here with a win people expected an automatic win which wasn’t easy but at that tie break the crowd really helped.
“You just get that extra boost, that extra energy. Even if your legs are feeling tiered that’s the energy you need to hit the serve especially for me. Winning in India is always especial and especially with an Indian partner is truly truly great.”
Ramkumar said he now wants to play ATP 500 event in Dubai and for that wil try to do well in the the upcoming two Challengers in Bengaluru.
“Let’s see if there is a chance to get in Dubai and hope I can play that,” said the 27-year-old.
Ramkumar said everyone believed in his game and that gave him confidence in this tournament.
“Coming from Bops (Bopanna) who always believes in me, my coaches and every one who have always believe in me and said you play well and that just keeps me going.
“I just have to work on a few thing on court and just keep competing at this level as much as I can which will improve my game and automatically the ranking,” he said.
In the singles final, Sousa returned to winning ways on the tour. He prevailed in a fire-fight with immensely-talented Ruusuvuori.
Ranked 137, the 32-year-old Sousa countered the intensity of his 22-year-old sixth seed rival from Finland with his experience to emerge a 7-6 (9) 4-6 6-1 winner in the final that lasted two hours and 43 minutes at the Balewadi Sports Complex.
While the two players put on display enthralling tennis, Sousa’s perseverance was key in countering the intense hitting and fighting spirit of the Finland player, who was eyeing his first title.
An emotional Sousa said it was a dream come true, after having endured a tough couple of years due to injuries. He had saved match points in the semi-final.
With PTI inputs