Ramkumar Ramanathan triumphed in the hard-fought all-Indian clash, beating third seed Sumit Nagal 6-4, 7-6(5) to reach the semi-finals of the KPIT-MSLTA Challenger in Pune on Friday. The sixth seeded Indian was clutch through the entertaining second set to improve his overall head-to-head record against Nagal 6-0.

This is Ramkumar’s first singles semi-final since the Glasgow Challenger in September. He is in the doubles semi-final as well with partner Purav Raja. The 25-year-old will next play second seed James Duckworth, who overcame a spirited fightback from eight-seeded Indian Sasikumar Mukund to win 7-5, 4-6, 7-5 in a 2 hour 16 minute battle.

Ramkumar, playing his trademark serve-and-volley game, had the first break points of the match in the fourth game which he squandered, before saving two more in the next game. The first break of the match came as Ramkumar converted the first of his three set points in an error-strewn service game from Nagal to take the first set with a clean game.

Nagal kept missing the lines on his big groundstrokes while his opponent mixed up his shots. The pattern seemed to continue in the second set as well as Ramkumar had two break points in the first service game, which he didn’t convert. The sixth seed broke again in the sixth game from deuce with a clever mix of backhand slice and looked set for an easy win at a set and a break up.

However, Nagal amped up the attack and broke right back with a passing winner to put the set back on serve. The third seed got a second consecutive break as an under-pressure Ramkumar committed a double fault. But he was unable to serve out the set as his lower-ranked opponent played a solid return game, the highlight being a sensational return winner off an overhead smash. Broken at 5-5 with yet another misjudged shot into the net, Nagal then held his nerve while serving to stay in the match.

In the tiebreak, Nagal raced to an early lead with passing winners and a sizzling forehand winner that impressed even his opponent. But when Ramkumar took the lead at 5-4 using the full force of his big serve, he didn’t give in. After a tough rally that involved both players parrying at the net, the sixth seed had match points and an unforced error sealed the deal.

India No 2 Nagal rued the missed chances in the match, but said that Ramkumar was a tricky player to play in these conditions. The 22-year-old, who has played the bulk of his latest matches on clay court, will next be seen in India’s Davis Cup tie against Pakistan at the end of the month but his ATP season is over.

In the other quarter-final, India’s Mukund came close to a win against the higher-ranked Duckworth, who he had lost to in the Baotou Challenger final in China.

After losing the final game of set one, the 22-year-old Indian fought back from a break down in the second to force a decider. He had three breakpoints in the 11th game of the third set, but could not close it out. Serving to stay in the match, he faltered and gave up the match.

Nonetheless, it was a good fight from the 250-ranked Indian, who will now got to Portugal to play another Challenger before ending his breakthrough season.

In the other singles quarter-finals of the day, seventh seeded Roberto Ortega-Olmedo of Spain advanced after Tim van Rijthoven – who had knocked out top seed Prajnesh Gunneswaran – retired after dropping the first set 7-6 (7)

The Spaniard will take on fifth seed Jay Clarke of Great Britain who had to rally from wasted match points to get past fourth seed Steven Diez. In the match that lasted two hours and 35 minutes, the Brit won 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (3).

In the doubles, top seeds Ramkumar and Raja sailed through with a 6-3, 6-4 win over Tunisia’s Aziz Dougaz and Frenchman Calvin Hemery. In the semi-finals, the Indian pair will take on fourth seeded Brydan Klein of Great Britain and N Vijay Sundar Prashanth, who beat the all-Indian pair of Niki Poonacha and Anirudh Chandrasekar 6-2, 6-3.