Somdev Devvarman: Ramanathan must work on consistency

Ramkumar Ramanathan has vaulted 46 places in the ATP rankings after reaching the final of the Hall of Fame Tennis Championships.

Ramkumar Ramanathan plays a shot during the final of the Hall of Fame Tennis Championship final on Sunday.   -  Ben Solomon

Ramkumar Ramanathan may have faltered in the final of the Hall of Fame Tennis Championships in Newport on Sunday, losing to American Steve Johnson in three sets, but it marked a week like none other.

For the 23-year-old, it was a first-ever appearance in an ATP World Tour event final and it was also a first by an Indian since Somdev Devvarman (Johannesburg, 2011). The effort has helped Ramkumar jump 46 places and match his career-high singles ranking of 115.

"It will give him a lot of confidence,” said Davis Cup captain Mahesh Bhupathi. “Unfortunately he couldn't win it but he is now back to his best ranking. So that's great. Obviously beating [Dominic] Thiem on grass last year would have made him believe he could beat anyone. It kind of helped him in Newport.”

In the past, Ramkumar has had his share of big wins. As a reed-thin 19-year-old, he beat Devvarman, India's best singles player then, at the 2014 Chennai Open. In 2016, he made the  quarterfinal at the same event. Last year, he beat a top-10 player in Thiem in Antalya. But never in the past has he been able to put together a streak.

“All these years he always seemed to be sitting on the fence,” said Davis Cup coach Zeeshan Ali. I am hoping this is the breakthrough he has been looking for. Winning three big matches in a row is way different than one big victory and that too against players who have been ranked much higher in the past like Vasek Pospisil. I am not discounting the big one-off wins. But they are always in danger of being termed a flash in the pan.”

It is this consistency that the now-retired Devvarman hoped Ramkumar would be able to achieve going forward. In fact, apart from reaching the summit clash in Johannesburg, Devvarman had done the same in Chennai in 2009.

“To make the final in a Tour event is not easy,” he said. “Now I hope Ramkumar takes this momentum into the next one. His biggest weakness is consistency. If he can work on that, he will be playing at this level more often. You can always say he has to improve. But he has the weapons – a big serve, forehand and great hands which make him a threat on faster surfaces.”

Anand Amritraj, under whose captaincy Ramkumar made his Davis Cup debut in 2016, felt this result will finally give the youngster the thrust he needed to break into the top-100. With Yuki Bhambri already there (No. 86) and Ramkumar on the cusp of it, Indian tennis can look ahead optimistically.

“Now he has to make that jump for another 20 spots, like how Yuki did,” Amritraj said. “It is very much doable. But he should guard against a mental letdown after such a high. Because, to be in the top-100 you need to be good week in and week out.”

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