Pune Challenger: Ramkumar in semifinals, Nagal goes down fighting

Ramkumar Ramanathan will be up against James Duckworth from Australia in the singles semifinals.

Ramkumar Ramanathan has qualified for both the singles and doubles semifinals.

Ramkumar Ramanathan has qualified for both the singles and doubles semifinals.   -  Special Arrangement

Sumit Nagal went down fighting to Ramkumar Ramanathan at the KPIT MSLTA Challenger Series singles quarterfinals at the Balewadi Sports Complex in Pune on Friday, the latter winning in straight sets 6-4, 7-6 (5) on the strength of strong serves and sharp play in the tie-breaker.

Ramkumar will be up against James Duckworth from Australia in the semifinals.

Ramkumar gained a crucial break in the 10th game of the first set, the first time Nagal appeared rattled and forehand errors cost him his serve and the early momentum. Nagal appeared to have tightened up his act in the second set till 3-3, only to find his radar going off target in the seventh when he was broken. A break back in the next game kept him on level terms, forcing Ramkumar to drop serve in the ninth before errors crept in.

Nagal struggled to hold serve in the 10th and from thereon it was an uphill task to counter an aggressive rival who gained in confidence as the set stretched to the tie-breaker. “I stuck to the game I know and did not try too many things,” said the 5'10" Indian when asked about the changing his game when points are piling up against him. “For a guy my size, this is all I can do against players with serves and has worked for me this season on the tour.”

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Ramkumar upped the tempo in the second set and was lethal in the tie-breaker. Nagal, taking the loss in his stride, is looking ahead to a new season. “This was my last ATP event and now after the Davis Cup, I will do my off season in Delhi and Chennai, then try to play in Australia.”  He admitted the strain of constant competition was beginning to tell on his body and felt relieved to have kept it injury free, especially the shoulder. “I am happy my shoulder held and after a very successful season, looking ahead to more work.”

Sixth seed Ramkumar, riding on a serve-and-volley game, relished the faster hard court in Pune. “I had my chances to win the match earlier, but did not make use of the opportunity. You always keep learning.”  After sending out the third seed Nagal, the second-highest ranked Indian in this competition, he faces a tougher semifinal against Duckworth, seeded No. 2 and able to mix incisive ground strokes with deception to clinch a thrilling win in one hour, 37 minutes.

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Sasi Kumar Mukund, seeded eighth, tried his best and took his match to the third set before bowing out to Duckworth.

Spain’s Roberto Ortego Olmado faces Jay Clark from England in the other semifinal.

Ramanathan returned to the court and partnered Purav Raja in the doubles quarterfinal, winning against the Tunisian-French pair of Aziz Dougaz and Calvin Herney in straight sets.

The results

Singles quarterfinals: Ramkumar Ramanathan bt Sumit Nagal 6-4, 7-6 (5); James Duckworth (Aus) bt Sashi Kumar Mukund 7-5, 4-6, 7-5; Roberto Ortego Olmado (Spn) bt Tim van Rijthoven (Ned)  7-6 (7), retd; Jay Clark (Eng) bt Steven Diaz (Can) 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (3).

Doubles quarterfinals: Purav Raja  & Ramkumar Ramanathan bt Aziz Dougaz (Tun)  & Calvin Hemery (Fra) 6-3, 6-4;  Brydan Klein (Gbr)  & N Vijay Sundar Prashanth (Ind) bt Niki Poonacha &  Anirudh Chandrasekar 6-2, 6-3.

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