Ramkumar eyes top-80 ranking ahead of Australian Open

India's Ramkumar Ramanathan has reached Australia early to prepare for the year's first Grand Slam with coach T. Chandrasekaran.

Ramkumar Ramanathan with coach T. Chandrasekaran in Melbourne.   -  SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

Ramkumar Ramanathan is early in Australia, with coach T. Chandrasekaran, to try and make a breakthrough into the first Grand Slam of the season in Melbourne.

For someone who had reached a career-best rank of 111 in the world, it is a surprise that the 25-year-old Ramkumar has not played the main draw of a Grand Slam yet.

It is a surprise because Ramkumar had beaten the current world No. 4
Dominik Thiem of Austria, in the second round on grass in the ATP event in Antalya in 2017, on way to the quarterfinals. He had lost in the third set tie break to Marcos Baghdatis then. He had also reached the final of the Newport ATP event in 2018, as a qualifier.

Ramkumar had lost in the final qualifying round in the third set in the past in Melbourne, and has tried to get used to the conditions better this time.

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Is he prepared better this time, to make that breakthrough that can put a strong foundation for the season?

"To be honest, I didn’t have much time really to have a strong pre-season, as I had to play the Oil Company tournament and then the Premier Tennis League. I still managed to take coach Chandra sir whenever possible to train me. I worked on my fitness and tennis. Since, I had played about 38 weeks of tournaments in 2019, I rested well at home, to start fresh for 2020. So, it was a good mix in the last 45 days," said Ramkumar, when contacted in Australia.

Coach Chandrasekaran, who has trained Ramkumar from the age of eight,
had travelled with him for some events in 2019 including the Australian Open wild card play-off in China.

"Chandra sir has guided and coached me since childhood. As a player, I feel it is very important to have a person who you are comfortable with, and am happy that Chandra sir is guiding me on and off court. We keep pushing ourselves, and am thankful to him. He helps me stay focused, and have a good mindset off the court," Ramkumar observed.

Ramkumar will compete in the $162,480 Bendigo Challenger in Canberra to acclimatise to the hot conditions.

"It has been pretty hot here. I am adapting to it. My goal is to stay healthy and qualify for the Grand Slams this season. I want to finish the year in the top-80," said Ramkumar, who is grateful to his employer Indian Oil apart from Babolat that provides him the racquet.

Despite a packed schedule, Ramkumar had managed to find time to be one
of the guests at the National School Games tennis event in Delhi, on the invitation of the Chairman of the Kendriya Vidyalaya Sangathan, Santosh Kumar Mall. He did have a brief meeting with the Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju, and hopes that the government would provide support to tennis players.

It has been family support that has seen Ramkumar reach this far, and
he was understandably grateful.

"I thank my parents for all their sacrifices, especially my dad who put me into tennis. I also want to thank everyone who has helped me through my entire career. I promise to keep trying hard and get better," said Ramkumar.

He may have reduced his rituals on court to thank God, almost before every serve, but Ramkumar is indeed, "thankful to the Almighty for all the blessing and keeping me in good health".

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