Ramkumar Ramanathan on Thursday defended his strategy of applying the serve and volley style on all surfaces this season but conceded he required to cut down on the number of tournaments to remain fresh for big moments in close matches.
Ramkumar commenced the year at number 148 in the world and managed to remain in top-150 despite not going deep in most of the tournaments. He is at number 130 this week. The KPIT Challenger is his 35th tournament this season apart from competing in two Davis Cup ties and at the Asian Games in Jakarta. Often experts paved the way Ramkumar persisted with serve and volley even when he was getting passed easily.
“When I was playing in the US last year, I was doing a lot of practice on serve and volley and I was utilizing it in matches. I was building on that. I felt better on the court. The more I played serve and volley on big points, I started to get confident. It’s not bad for me. I am tall, I cover the court well, so why not?” Ramkumar told PTI when asked about his recent love for such tactics.
“But you should do it at right moment. Staying back also is not a bad idea for me because I grew up on clay. It’s actually a mix-up. It’s always good to have many patterns,” he said. He savoured his best outcome of the season on grass, reaching his maiden ATP 250-level final at Hall of Fame Open in Newport.
The 24-year-old from Chennai blamed himself for the losses he suffered and not the style of play he chose.
“This year I have chipped and charged more and I have tried that to take the pattern to hard and clay courts and sometimes I have lost the points because hard and clay are true bounce and on grass, it can be low and much effective. But it’s all about practice and you need to be there with energy, that’s the key.”
In 18 tournaments he played on the Challenger Tour, he suffered eight first-round exits, lost five times in the second round, made three quarterfinals and reached only one final.
An analysis of his performance tells that in these 18 tournaments, he won just five three-set matches and three times he pulled off close second-set tie-break contests and 10 times Ramkumar lost either in the second-set tiebreak or in a three-setter. “It’s tough to play even Challengers. The players are hungry, they are playing better. When I lose a match, it’s my mistake. Maybe I am missing too many shots. But I don’t have any mental block. There are many factors going on in a match.
“Still I am 130-140, there’s nothing wrong with my game, just I need to add to my game. It’s a process. So far it’s on upscale. It’s been a long season. There were ups and downs. There were a lot of close matches where I could have won. “The most necessary thing is that I am fit. I played the tournaments I wanted to play. Even if it was a little more, I think I did the right thing,” he said. So what will Ramkumar do in 2019 to pull off close matches and be consistent?
“I required to make a better plan. The Challengers rules are changing. I should start taking small breaks. Maybe play 25 tournaments instead of 35. Losing close matches is tough and when you a fresh, you can focus on those big points and moments better. Although playing tournaments is also good,” he said.
“I am right there, very close. I believe I can get into the top-100 and top-50, it’s just time. I am putting in the work and am focussed.” The biggest take away for Ramkumar was that he was the only Indian top player who did not have a fitness issue. Yuki Bhambri, SakethMyneni and SumitNagal have all struggled this season.
“The four-weeks (fitness training) I did with Emlio and Sanjay kept me fit. Maybe I need to do it every two months to get the power back to sustain for the next few months. When I play ATP, everyone is super fit. I need to take a few days off so that I am ready,” he said. Asked about his training regime, he said it was a mix of a lot of things.
“A lot of running, weights, balance, a lot of balls, a lot of sets. It’s different every day. When we do fitness, we reduce tennis but work more on technique and patterns. That’s the only way for me to have a chance competing at this (ATP Tour) level,” he said. Ramkumar said finance was not an issue for him now and thanked his employer Indian Oil Corporation for its consistent support.