Tata Open Maharashtra: Simon off to a winning start

Frenchman Gilles Simon got off his Tata Open Maharashtra campaign to a perfect start with a 6-4, 6-1 victory over American Tennys Sandgren here on Monday.

The tennis, like Simon's, has always been, was unspectacular, but more than enough to help him ease into the second round.   -  R. Ragu

Ramkumar Ramanathan booked his date with top seed Marin Cilic after an impressive 7-6 (4), 6-2 win over Spain's Roberto Carballes Baena on the opening day of the Tata Open Maharashtra here on Monday.

Following a tight first set, which he won in a tiebreak, Ramkumar summoned his best tennis in the second, to clinch it 6-2. On the night, what stood out was the 23-year-old's volleying, unafraid as he was in going for it even under pressure.

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The best of these came while serving at 3-2, 30-30 in the second set. After holding for 4-2, he took eight of the next nine points – which included two more volleys, a first-rate backhand down-the-line winner and two aces – to scamper home.

“I knew that if I could serve and volley and win a few points it could turn the momentum,” Ramkumar said later. “Against good players, if I get an easy volley I can finish off the point early. That I am able to do it under pressure is also a good sign.”

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Earlier, Sriram Balaji and Vishnu Vardhan, who had endured agonising defeats in their respective singles qualifying matches, found no luck in doubles also, going down to the pair of Adil Shamasdin and Neal Skupski 3-6, 7-6 (8), [10-6]. There was a close defeat for local boy Arjun Kadhe too where he and his partner Benoit Paire were defeated by the Dutch duo of Robin Haase and Matwe Middelkoop 1-6, 7-5, [10-7].

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But Kadhe would have no doubt been richer for the experience. Going by the first set, the defeat seemed improbable as Kadhe and Paire raced to take it 6-1. Paire was his mercurial self – plucking winners from improbable angles but at the same time venting his ire at missed chances both on the ball and the racquet. Debutant Khade though was unnerved and on occasions even found the tennis to match Paire's.

In the second set, when under pressure serving at 4-5, Kadhe held with poise. Then at 2-6 in the match-tiebreak, the 23-year-old executed a remarkable pick up volley and won both his subsequent points on serve. But Paire's errors, both at the fag end of the second set and during the tiebreak, put paid to their hopes.

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Earlier, the event lost its first seeded player in Czech Jiri Vesely, who fell in straight sets to qualifier Ricardo Ojeda Lara from Spain 6-3, 7-6 (5).

The results: First round: Singles: Ramkumar Ramanathan bt Roberto Carballes Baena (Esp) 7-6 (4), 6-2; Gilles Simon (Fra) bt Tennys Sandgren (USA) 6-4, 6-1; Mikhail Kukushkin (Kaz) bt Radu Albot (Mda) 6-2, 7-6 (4); Marton Fucsovics (Hun) bt Nicolas Kicker (Arg) 6-0, 6-3; Ricardo Ojeda Lara (Esp) bt Jiri Vesely (Cze) 6-3, 7-6 (5); Nicolas Jarry (Chi) bt Pablo Andujar (Esp) 6-7 (4), 6-4, 7-5; Pierre-Hugues Herbert (Fra) bt M. Cecchinato (Ita) 7-6 (4), 6-7 (6), 6-2.

Doubles: Adil Shamasdin (Can) & Neal Skupski (GBR) bt Sriram Balaji & Vishnu Vardhan 3-6, 7-6 (8), [10-6]; Robin Haase & Matwe Middelkoop (Ned) bt Arjun Kadhe & Benoit Paire (Fra) 1-6, 7-5, [10-7]


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