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Ramkumar Ramanathan gave a good account of himself with a fluent serve and volley game before being overtaken at the post by Steve Johnson of the US 7-5, 3-6, 6-2 in the final of the $623,710 Hall of Fame ATP tennis tournament in Newport, US, on Sunday.

While the 23-year-old Ramkumar had the serve to speak for his prowess, as he fired 10 aces, the 28-year-old Johnson had all the experience backed by three Tour titles, including one on grass in Nottingham, to come up trumps at the crunch.

It all amounted to converting the chances in a battle of wits that lasted two hours under a drizzle, and Johnson won three of five breakpoints and capitalised on an early break in the decider.

On the other hand, Ramkumar converted one of two breakpoints to pocket that second set, but did not get a look at a breakpoint in both the first and and third sets which spoke for the solid game that Johnson played in winning his fourth Tour title and second of the season.

"It was a great week for me. I think I gave my best, all through out the week. Steve was hitting some good forehands today. I think he played a good third set and got the better of me,” Ramkumar was quoted as saying by the ATP.

Johnson did not grudge any credit for his young opponent and praised him wholeheartedly.

"He knows how to play in Newport. He is very good at the net. I thought I hit a lot of good returns down at the feet and he hit some great volleys. I was just fortunate to get an early break in the third and keep the momentum,” Johnson said.

While Johnson collected $99, 375 and 250 ATP points that took him from No.48 to being 34 in the world, Ramkumar pocketed $52,340 and 150 points that catapulted him back to his career best rank of 115, which he had earlier achieved in April this season.

Yuki Bhambri, not to be seen in any of the draws after Wimbledon, continues to be on top at No.86.

For most who are still irked at finding Leander Paes show so much enthusiasm to play his tennis around the world at 45, it may be noted that his feat of winning the ATP singles title in Newport in 1998 has not been matched in two decades by an Indian. Somdev Devvarman had made the final in Johannesburg in 2011, before Ramkumar rose like a phoenix to wipe out the poor run in recent weeks.

Let us not even talk about Leander’s Olympic bronze medal in singles behind Andre Agassi and Sergi Bruguera in 1996 in Atlanta, as most just about fear that he may hang on, to play his eighth Olympics on the trot in Tokyo!

The other bright star in the Indian horizon, Prajnesh Gunneswaran won two rounds in the qualifying event to join Ramkumar in the main draw of the next ATP event in Atlanta. Ramkumar got a ‘’special exempt’’ entry into the main draw, despite the last direct entrant being ranked 105, by virtue of being occupied in the business end of the tournament in Newport.

Meanwhile, Karman Kaur Thandi announced that the Indian women’s tennis was equally healthy as she joined Ankita Raina in the main draw of the $250,000 WTA event in Nanchang, China. Seeded second, Karman won two rounds in the qualifying event, dropping nine games in all in four sets to make the grade in style.

Karman will play Jia-Jing Lu of China in the first round. Interestingly, the Chinese will partner Ankita Raina for doubles.

Ankita will open her campaign against second seed Wang Qiang of China.

In the $15,000 ITF women’s event in Jakarta, National champion Mahak Jain was beaten 6-4, 6-1 by Arianne Hartono of the Netherlands in the final.

While it was a double crown for the 22-year-old Arianne, who was winning her maiden singles title in the professional circuit, the 17-year-old Mahak, coached by Sajid Lodi, was playing her third singles final. It was a fruitful outing in Indonesia over a fortnight for Mahak as she had made the semifinals last week.

Mahak had lost to Rutuja Bhosale and Zeel Desai in her earlier finals last year in Aurangabad and Gwalior respectively.

The results:
$623,710 ATP, Newport, US
Singles (final): Steve Johnson (US) bt Ramkumar Ramanathan 7-5, 3-6, 6-2.

$748,450 ATP, Atlanta, US
Qualifying singles (second and final round): Prajnesh Gunneswaran bt Tommy Paul (US) 6-3, 6-3; First round: Prajnesh Gunneswaran bt Mohamed Safwat (Egy) 0-6, 6-3, 6-1.

$250,000 WTA, Nanchang, China
Qualifying singles (second and final round): Karman Kaur Thandi bt Valeriya Savinykh (Rus) 6-2, 6-3; First round: Karman Kaur Thandi bt Nika Kukharchuk (Rus) 6-3, 6-1.

$15,000 ITF women, Jakarta, Indonesia
Singles (final): Arianne Hartono (Ned) bt Mahak Jain 6-4, 6-1.


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LAST UPDATED ON : 18-Apr-2024 7:31 PM IST