Ramkumar admits to a "mixed year"

Ramkumar Ramanathan started 2016 with a promising display at Chennai Open, reaching the quarterfinals against the odds. But the rest of the year "was not great but it was not bad," he says ahead of this season's campaign.

Ramkumar Ramanathan secured his career-best ranking of 196 in 2016.   -  R. Ragu

The 2016 Chennai Open was a watershed moment in Ramkumar Ramanathan's career. He reached the quarterfinals of the ATP event and pushed Aljaz Bedene to a corner before after winning the first set to show he belonged at the level.

2016 was expected to be the breakthrough year for him, but his rankings more or less remained the same. Even though he reached a career-high ranking of 196 during the middle of the year, it was an “inconsistent year”, as he puts it.

Speaking about his season, Ramkumar said, “I played a lot of challengers and futures. It was a mixed year. It was not great but it was not bad. I tried my best in every match I played fighting hard for every point which I think is very important.”

The 22-year old, ranked 228, now has another shot in front of his home crowd where he starts off against a qualifier in the first round which should help him ease into the tournament. “I had a good off-season. I just want to be aggressive and work up the crowd to get behind me.”

‘Fit and ready’

The biggest takeaway for Ramkumar this past year was his ability to play lots of matches and stay fit. “For me I was fit and ready to travel and I wanted to play lot of matches. Compared to the previous year I planned my travel better along with my coach. In 2015, after the U.S. Open I played in Thailand which was not the smartest thing to do but this year I stayed in a place for two weeks and played the tournaments.”

But it has also meant he has not been able to focus on his fitness as much as he would have liked. Ramkumar says he worked in Coimbatore over the last few days on strength training to get in shape for the Chennai Open.

This year also saw him play his first live rubber in the Davis Cup tie against Korea and won his first match. “It is a great feeling to play for India. To play live rubber with Leander [Paes] and Rohan [Bopanna] sitting there, I liked it with the crowd support behind you. I was nervous at the start but as the match went on, it was good.”

While emulating 2016 might be a tough ask, Ramkumar has shown in the past here, that he is more than capable of giant-killing act.