Ramkumar Ramanathan: Serve-and-volley style not an impediment

The serve-and-volley style of play is a welcome addition to his game, says India’s Ramkumar Ramanathan.

All-round game: According to Ramkumar Ramanathan, “the more I played serve and volley on big points, I started to feel confident.”   -  V. Sreenivasa Murthy (File Photo)

Despite having faced criticism, India’s Ramkumar Ramanathan has defended his strategy of adopting a serve-and-volley style of play on all surfaces this season. According to him, to ensure more success, he needs to cut down on the number of tournaments.

Ramkumar started the year as the World No. 148. He has managed to remain within the top 150 players despite not having progressed beyond the initial rounds in most tournaments. The ongoing KPIT Challenger is his 35th tournament this season; he has also participated in the Davis Cup and the Asian Games. This week, he is ranked 130.

On the value of his serve-and-volley game, Ramkumar, on Thursday, told PTI, “When I was playing in U.S. last year, I was doing a lot of practice on serve and volley and I was using it in matches. I was building on that. I felt better on court. The more I played serve and volley on big points, I started to feel confident. It’s not bad for me. I am tall, I cover the court well, so why not?”

He added, “But you should do it at right moment. Staying back also is not a bad idea for me because I grew up on clay. It’s actually a mix up. It’s always good to have many patterns.”

‘All about practice’

The 24-year-old reached his maiden ATP 250-level final at the Hall of Fame Open, a grass-court tourney, in Newport, earlier this year, a moment he savours. However, there have been many losses, too. In 18 tournaments on the Challenger Tour, he suffered eight first-round exits and five second-round exits; he made it to the quarterfinals thrice and the final once.

He refused to attribute the losses he suffered to his style of play. “This year I have chipped and charged more and I have tried that to take the pattern to hard and clay courts and sometimes I have lost the points because hard and clay are true bounce and on grass it can be low and much effective. But it’s all about practice and you need to be there with energy, that’s the key,” he said.

Memorable moment: Earlier this year, Ramkumar Ramanathan finished runner-up at the Hall of Fame Open, an ATP 250 event. Photo: PTI

 

In the 18 tournaments on the Challenger Tour, Ramkumar won just five three-set matches. Thrice, he pulled off close second-set tie-break contests, and 10 times, he lost either in the second-set tie break or in a three-setter. “It’s not easy to play even the Challengers. The players are hungry, they are playing better. When I lose a match, it’s my mistake. Maybe I am missing too many shots. But I don’t have any mental block. There are many factors going on in a match. Still I am [ranked] 130-140, there’s nothing wrong with my game, I [just] need to add to my game. It’s a process. So far it’s on the upscale. It’s been a long season. There were ups and downs. There were a lot of close matches where I could have won. The most important thing is that I am fit. I played the tournaments I wanted to play. Even if it was little more, I think I did the right thing,” he said.

‘Focussed’

So what will Ramkumar do in 2019 to pull off victories in close contests and for more consistency?

“I need to make a better plan. The Challengers rules are changing. I should start taking small breaks. Maybe play 25 tournaments instead of 35. Losing close matches is tough and when you a fresh, you can focus on those big points and moments better. Although playing tournaments is also good,” he said.

“I am right there, very close. I believe I can get into the top-100 and top-50, it’s just time. I am putting in the work and am focussed,” he added.

That Ramkumar was the only top Indian player not to have fitness issues is his biggest takeaway. Yuki Bhambri, Saketh Myneni and Sumit Nagal have all struggled this season. “The four-weeks [of fitness training] I did with [my trainers] kept me fit. May be I need to do it every two months to get the power back to sustain for the next few months. When I play ATP, everyone is super fit. I need to take a few days off, so that I am ready [for the upcoming assignments],” he said.

Asked about his training regime, he revealed it was a mix of lot of things. “[It is] a lot of running, weights, balance, a lot of balls, lots of sets. It’s different every day. When we do fitness, we reduce tennis but work more on technique and patterns. That’s the only way for me to have a chance competing at this (ATP Tour) level,” he said.

Ramkumar said finance was not a concern for him now and thanked his employer Indian Oil Corporation for its consistent support.

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