Ramkumar Ramanathan’s frustrations were writ large in his body language before Chinese Taipei’s three Asian Games gold medal points.
The Indians were up against a clinical Chinese Taipei pair, Jason Jung and Hsu Yu-hsiou, and the Chinese fans, who were raucous in their support for the Taiwanese. Their constant chattering and shouting before and in between points had got to Ramanathan, who threw his racquet down in protest and looked towards the referee.
But the match official asked him to continue playing. With Jung ready to serve, he didn’t even set himself up at the net. But, he wasn’t called into action as Saketh Myneni hit it long in his return.
It was a disappointing end to what has been an underwhelming tennis campaign so far for India as Myneni and Ramanathan lost in the final 4-6, 4-6 to finish with a silver medal here at the Hangzhou Olympic Sports Centre on Friday. Saketh had a chance to improve on his second-place finish from 2014 but it wasn’t to be.
Ramkumar, who medalled for the first time in the Games, said, “The crowd didn’t know when to shout and when not to shout, which was a little bit tough for both teams. Between the first and second serves and returns, it breaks the rhythm a lot. But that was the case for both of us. If they [crowd] could have been better, it could have been better for us.”
After having won eight successive points on serve, Ramkumar’s service was broken in the fifth game which gave Taipei a 3-2 lead and eventually set itself up to seize the momentum in the final. In fact, India lost only five serve points in the opening set with four of them coming in Ramkumar’s service game, where both Jung and Hsu returned well. The Taipei team was strong with its serve and volley as they took the first set 6-4 in 35 minutes.
Ramkumar and Myneni, who had finished their semifinal match at 6.15 p.m. on Thursday at the center court, looked off the pace in the early start here against the Taipei duo, who were sharp throughout with their service games and their return on serves. The Indians didn’t help themselves by racking up the unforced errors against their names with Saketh, in particular, struggling at the net.
In the second set, the break for Taipei was eventually coming as both Ramkumar and Saketh had lost 13 serve points before the start of game nine. This time, it was Saketh’s service game which was broken with Jung placing his return past him as he looked to rush the net. India had saved three break points but after having gone down 40-15 during the game, they were up against it. The pair roared towards the crowd, who reciprocated in return, and Jung served out the game to help his team win their first Asian Games gold medals.
After the match, Jang, an American-born Taiwanese, said, “The crowd support helped. You can feel the energy inside. It’s tough being on the receiving end of it. I think its because we both [nations] speak Mandarin, that we get the support here. If we don’t play against China, they want to cheer for us.”
“Maybe the score looks straightforward but it’s actually very difficult. We did a good job of keeping our errors down today. We took care of our serves very well today and helped each other out at the net,” he said.
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