Wildcard entrant Ramkumar Ramanathan gave fans at the Balewadi stadium something to cheer on the opening day of the new year when he came back from a set down to beat Spain’s Marcel Granollers 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 in the opening round of the Tata Open Maharashtra on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, Arjun Kadhe, the other wildcard in the draw, went down fighting in the first round to Serbia’s Laslo Djere. After taking a 3-0 lead, he lost the match 5-7, 6-7(6).
Ramkumar, who trailed Granollers 0-2 in head-to-head before Tuesday’s encounter, had a shaky start, losing serve in the very first game after leading 30-0. But the 24-year-old Indian got the break right back with a combination of swift footwork and errors from the Spaniard.
The first hold of the match came in the fourth game as Granollers held to love to take a 3-1 lead. Ramkumar responded with a love hold of his own but could not break back. Serving to stay in the set, Ram came up with a strong service game, charging to the net when needed to make it 5-4 but the Spaniard sealed it on serve on his first set point in 35 minutes.
Granollers, who had beaten Ramkumar in 2014 when the tournament was held in Chennai and more recently in the Challenger at Nottingham this year, looked more comfortable at the net while the Indian preferred to to stick to the baseline.
Ramkumar was also poor on second serve both while serving and returning, while Granollers scored 75% points on the Indian’s second serve to the his opponents’ 33% success rate.
The second set was a different story as Ramkumar found the rhythm of his serve and did not face a single break point — winning 83% points on his first serve.
Egged on by a cheering crowd, Ramkumar missed an opportunity to break Granollers in the fourth game and it looked like the Indian could lose the plot completely after an altercation with the chair umpire two games later.
After slicing a ball into the net during a rally, Ramkumar asked for a review claiming that the ball had landed out when he played the stroke. But the umpire refused to consider it as it came after the Indian had played a shot. A long discussion followed with the 24-year-old insisting that the ball that was “clearly” out but the Spaniard got the point and drew level at 3-3 after winning the next two.
To his credit, Ramkumar kept his nerves and his big serve bailed him out under pressure and he converted the first set point in the 10 game on Granollers’s serve to take the match into the decider.
The Indian was clearly the more dominant player in the decider as he broke the Spaniard’s serve in the fourth game and then consolidated the advantage into a 4-1 lead -1 but not before there was another ill-tempered debate over a challenge, which went in Ramkumar’s favour.
Serving for the match, Ramkumar started with a double fault but recovered to convert the first of two match points with a whizzing forehand.
The Indian, who had lost to Marin Cilic in the second round last year, will now face fourth seed Malek Jaziri on Wednesday.
Men’s Singles – 1st Round
(Q) S Bolelli d D Istomin 6-4, 6-4
I Ivashka d H Hurkacz 6-7 (9), 6-2, 603
I Karlovic d (Q) F Auger-Aliassime 6-4, 7-5
(5) B Paire d (L) T Monteiro 7-6(5), 6-3
J Vesely d (Q) A Hoang 4-6, 6-4, 6-4
(W) R Ramanathan d M Granollers 4-6, 6-4, 6-3