Ramkumar Ramanathan’s 2019 season and India’s singles campaign at the KPIT-MSLTA Challenger came to an end on Saturday as the sixth seed exited from his third ATP Challenger semi-final of the year after a rollercoaster loss to James Duckworth in Pune. However, he is still alive in the doubles with partner Purav Raja.
The Indian suffered a strange meltdown in the second set to lose 14 points on the trot and go down 6-7(8), 2-6 in an hour and 35 minutes. Of this, the first set itself lasted an hour and four minutes while the second was less than 30 minutes.
Australian second seed Duckworth will take on Great Britain’s Jay Clarke in the final on Sunday. The fifth seed beat Roberto Ortega-Olmedo 6-3, 6-2 in the other semi-final.
This is only the second time that there will be no Indian in the final of the country’s longest-running ATP Challenger. But it will be an all-Indian final in the doubles as Ramkumar and Raja set up a title clash with Saketh Myneni and Arjun Kadhe.
The world No 190, the only Indian to reach the semi-final, had earlier notched a gritty win over the higher-ranked Sumit Nagal in Friday’s quarter-final. He started the semi-final on a similarly strong note, breaking the Australian world No 111 in the very first game of the match. He then saved two break points in the next game and fired down aces in excess of 220 kmph to go on for a 3-1 lead.
However a poor sixth game – two double faults, a huge shank and a forehand error – saw him broken and the set back on serve. The 25-year-old didn’t let the lapse in concentration get the better of him at the point, and played two solid service games to stay in the set.
The tiebreak could have gone either way but an error-prone Ramkumar squandered several chances and a set point while his opponent converted his third to take the lead. A good shot-maker with a wide reach, the Indian was going for his groundstrokes and mixing up play. But the judgement to time his shots let him down at the crucial moments.
He said that if he could replay the match, he would make the volley at 6-5, a miss the cost him the set.
The second set was a different story though. After a competitive first two service games, Ramkumar’s level dropped drastically and he was broken to love in the fifth game. Duckworth won 14 straight points as the Indian was just unable to get his shots right. Ramkumar offered no excuse for the slacking, saying that his opponent – a former top-100 player – just played a solid game and didn’t give him a toehold.
He was break points down again, and while he managed a good ace, the negativity seemed to get to him as he was broken again as his opponent won 16 of the last 18 points.
The Indian’s big serve, which served him well for most past of the tournament, was completely off rhythm as he committed nine doubles faults in the match to 11 aces while his opponent had five aces to one double fault.
In the doubles semis, Ramkumar and Raja reached their second straight Challenger final. Fresh off winning the Kobe Challenger, the top seeds beat Brydan Klein and N Vijay Sundar Prashanth 6-4, 7-5. They will play third seeds Myneni and Pune local Kadhe, who needed the match tiebreak to see off second seeds Vishnu Vardhan and Toshide Matsui 5-7, 7-6(1), 10-4.