Ramkumar sets fitness, Davis Cup goals for 2019

Currently working on his upper body to add power to the serve and legs to stay in the point, Ramkumar Ramanathan feels India has a great chance to pack up Italy in the Davis Cup qualifiers.

The change in the ATP ranking system is not much of a concern for Ramkumar Ramanathan as he is used to the stringent cut-offs. Rather, the ploy could improve the quality of Indian players.   -  PTI

India’s No. 2 singles player Ramkumar Ramanathan slipped in the rankings towards the end of the season — 111 to 133 — but he had unleashed his magic in flashes. The 24-year-old became the first Indian to reach final of an ATP event (Newport) since Somdev Devvarman in the South Africa Open final in 2011.

A maiden doubles title at the Pune Challenger with Vijay Sundar Prashanth came as a boost when the chips were down.

With the Davis Cup qualifiers against Italy in February (in Kolkata) and a wildcard entry into ATP 250 Tata Open starting next week in Pune, Ramkumar is working on his fitness to match up to the challenges ahead. “I am working on my upper body, especially shoulder to increase power on my serve; also on my legs to stay longer in the point. If you move higher in the rankings, there should be lesser mistakes,” he said on the sidelines of the event, Celebrate Tennis, which felicitated past, present and future tennis players from Tamil Nadu.

Read: Aggressive Prajnesh eyes top 50 finish

The change in the ATP ranking system is not much of a concern for Ramkumar as he is used to the stringent cut-offs. Rather, the ploy could improve the quality of Indian players.

Come 2019, the winner will only get five ATP points in the ITF Transition Tour 25,000 + H. The finalist will get three, and the semi-finalists, one. From 2020, there won’t be ATP points in ITF events. “It has always been tough. The cut-offs have been crazy. Now Brisbane and Auckland is below 100, everything is getting tougher. If you play well, you have a chance as it is a matter of a few points.”

The Chennai lad feels India has a great Davis Cup side and it should hold them in good stead on the  grass-court in Kolkata. “With Yuki (Bhambri), Praj (Prajnesh Gunneswaran), Leander Paes, Bops (Rohan Bopanna) and I, we have a great team.

“We have a chance. We are playing on grass. I have played there four to five years ago and had a good time. There will be a lot of people supporting us. Even against Serbia (in the World Group play-off tie), it was a really close match. I lost the second set with a difference in few points. When you are playing for your country, it is a different feeling and it’s all about the experience,” said Ramkumar, heaping praise on non-playing captain Mahesh Bhupathi.

“He is quiet and like any other captain, expects us to do well. We always go ahead of times whenever he is around. He always asks players for their surface preferences. He is trying his best to do the job as captain and I feel he is doing it with all his heart. There is no politics (in the team).”

Related: Australian Open introduces first-to-10 final-set breakers

Ramkumar played 35 tournaments this season but he believes it is a part of the process. He has no regrets. “I am still in the 130s and there is a long way to go. A match or two from here can get you close to 100. Overall, my game has improved and I try to focus on my serve, which is the key. You can expect more effort from me in the coming year,” he said.

Winning the doubles title in the Pune Challenger opened another gate. “I am going to try and play as much as doubles. It is always good to win something towards the end of the year,” said Ramkumar.