Ramkumar stuns Thiem

Ramkumar Ramanathan upset French Open semifinalist World No. 8 Dominic Thiem 6-3, 6-2 in the second round of the Antalya Open on Tuesday.

After notching up arguably the biggest win by an Indian singles tennis player, since Leander Paes beat the then World No. 2 Pete Sampras at New Haven in 1998, an elated Ramkumar Ramanathan credited his aggressive game and impressive serving for his comfortable win over Thiem.

“It was a great match today,” Ramkumar told The Hindu from Antalya, Turkey. “I played the big points well. I had a game plan. Maybe the first game I was bit nervous but I served really well with two aces and two first serves and had a love hold. After that I didn’t think that it was Thiem on the other side and I struck to my plan.”

The 22-year-old in fact came through the qualifying and then beat World No. 68 Rogerio Dutra Silva in straight sets in the first round.

“Those matches really helped,” said Ramkumar. “It has been a tough year so far. After the Chennai Open, I trained for a few weeks before the Davis Cup in Pune and then I went to the United States and played quite a few tough Challenger events and reached the final in Tally. I was losing close matches. So I am very happy with this result.”

“I am going to enjoy this win but at the same I want to build on this and keep my head down and prepare for the next match,” said Ramkumar, who will next play former Australian Open finalist Marcos Baghdatis in only his second ever ATP 250 quarterfinal. “I would like to thank my coach Emilio Sanchez, the Tamil Nadu Tennis Association (TNTA), Indian Oil Corporation and Karti [Chidambaram] sir, who have continued to support me.”

His Davis Cup coach, Zeeshan Ali, and India’s foremost singles player in recent years, Somdev Devvarman, hoped that it will be a big turning point in his career.

“To beat a player like Thiem is definitely his biggest win,” Zeeshan said. “Just hoping that he keeps the momentum going. He has always had the potential and talent to do big things. His is not exactly a grass court game. But he has a big game. Also he has had an opportunity to play on grass thanks to Davis Cup when he made his debut in Chandigarh. He has also won the National grass court championship.”

“Having big wins can be monumental in a player’s career,” Devvarman told The Hindu . “It’s his first top-ten win. He has had a tough season and moments like this can turn a year around. This will be nice moment to look back on, gain the self-belief that he can play against the best players and beat them. That’s the kind of mindset he has to have.”

Karti, Vice-President of the TNTA, which has been supporting Ramkumar for a decade now, termed the win historic. “You can talk about whether it was his [Thiem’s] strong surface or not, but to beat a top-10 player is just brilliant. Even in a practice match it is a big deal and shows Ram is a bloody good player. I just hope he builds on this momentum. He is capable of being in the top-100.”

Important results: Antalya Open: Men: Second round: Ramkumar Ramanathan bt Dominic Thiem 6-3, 6-2; Fernando Verdasco bt Steve Darcis 6-3, 6-4.

Doubles: Pre-quarterfinals: Leander Paes & Adil Shamasdin bt Weseley Koolhof & Matwe Middelkoop 3-5, 7-5 [11-9]; Purav Raja & Divij Sharan bt Tuna Altuna & David Ferrer 7-6(4), 6-2.

First round: Janko Tipsarevic bt Lloyd Harris 7-5, 6-3; Andreas Seppi bt Kamil Majchrzak 6-2, 7-6(1); Ramkumar bt Rogerio Dutra Silva 6-3, 6-4; Marcos Baghdatis bt Nikoloz Basilashvili 6-2, 6-1.

Eastbourne International: Men: First round: Vasek Pospisil bt Jiri Vesely 6-3, 6-4.

Women: Second round: Heather Watson bt Dominika Cibulkova 7-5, 6-4; Jelena Ostapenko bt Carla Suarez Navarro 6-3, 0-6, 6-4; Lara Arruabarrena bt Daria Gavrilova 2-6, 6-2, 6-3.

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