The Indian singles challenge at the Tata Open Maharashtra ended without a solitary success story as Ramkumar Ramanathan and Mukund Sasikumar followed Manas Manoj Dhamne and Sumit Nagal out of the tournament, at the Balewadi Stadium here on Tuesday.
While Ramkumar was beaten by Spain’s Pedro Martinez – World No. 62 and an ATP tour titlist in 2022 (Santiago, clay) – 3-6, 7-5, 6-3, Mukund, India’s top-ranked singles player, fell to a dispiriting 4-6, 5-7 loss to Italy’s Flavio Cobolli.
But the afternoon started more with a bang than a whimper. On an outside court, under the blazing afternoon sun, Ramkumar held the upper hand for a set and a half. With his net-rushing game, he shortened points to his liking even as Martinez tried to rally and test the Indian’s patience.
It was to Ramkumar’s credit that he wasn’t trigger happy, and even unleashed a few winners from his traditionally weak backhand wing.
However, the combined loss of three breakpoints in the third and fifth games of the second set shifted momentum. Martinez refocused and played pretty much flawless tennis thereafter.
The Spaniard earned his first opportunity to level the contest in the 12th game, courtesy a great pass and a fine stretched cross-court return. A double-fault from Ramkumar gave him the set.
In the third, Ramkumar had no answer to Martinez’s whipped forehands and deep returns at his shoelaces as he fell behind 2-5. He let his peers, who had lined up to watch him, know that his opponent was “missing nothing, not even half a ball.” Martinez proved it, yet again, with an excellent drop volley to end the match.
Like Ramkumar, Mukund too started brightly against Cobolli, with early breaks in both sets. But the 20-year-old qualifier was unruffled and lifted his level a couple of notches to triumph.
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“It’s not over with just a break of serve,” Mukund said later. “Opponents at this level will keep fighting back. I treated it [the break] as just another game and as expected he did not drop his level, but in fact raised it.”
There was however some consolation for Ramkumar later on as he teamed up with Mexican Miguel Reyes-Varela to oust Rohan Bopanna and Netherlands’ Botic Van de Zandschulp 7-6 (5), 6-7 (4), [11-9].