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Chennai Open: Shock wins for Ramanathan, Bhambri

Chennai:  Rookie qualifier Ramkumar Ramanathan, a 19-year-old from Chennai playing his first tour match, wrote his own script as he took out Somdev Devvarman in three sets Tuesday to book a berth in the second
IANS January 01, 2014 8:50 IST
Chennai:  Rookie qualifier Ramkumar Ramanathan, a 19-year-old from Chennai playing his first tour match, wrote his own script as he took out Somdev Devvarman in three sets Tuesday to book a berth in the second round of the Aircel Chennai Open.

A highly charged Ramanathan, ranked 526, came through 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 in a match that stretched over two hours and 20 minutes, while World No.90 Devvarman, a finalist here in 2009, trudged off the Centre Court shell-shocked.

Joining Ramanathan in the second round was another rising Indian star Yuki Bhambri, who notched one of the biggest wins of his fledgling career as he knocked out World No.64 Pablo Carreno Busta from Spain, winner of the ATP Most Improved Player of the Year award, 6-4, 6-3.

Meanwhile, qualifier Alexander Kudryavtsev from Russia authored the first upset result of the tournament as he put out 2013 finalist and eighth seeded Spaniard Roberto Bautista-Agut 6-4, 3-6, 6-3, on the outside court to set up a second round clash with Slovak Aljaz Bedene, who saw off qualifier Henri Laaksonen, the Finland-born Swiss resident, 3-6, 7-5, 7-6 (0).

Ramanathan, playing his first tour match, could have won much earlier had he converted the many break points that he created and a few that a strangely subdued Devvarman gifted. Eventually, the teenager held his nerve to come through a tight match.

An enthusiastic Ramanathan, with his high-decibel grunts, did well to keep pace with his senior opponent, but some loose shots at crucial stages weighed down the teenager while Devvarman played the big points better.

Ramanathan, who wears his emotions on his sleeves, showed much promise in the first set. After dropping serve in the third game, he broke right back in the next for 2-2. However, the 28-year-old Devvarman got his act together and with a break of serve in the ninth that ended on Ramanathan's double-fault, he took the 10th for the set.

Ramanathan played far better in the second set as he saved a break point in the third game and later broke Devvarman in the eighth for 5-3. The rookie clinched the set on his third set point to level at 1-1.

Encouraged by the success, Ramanathan broke Devvarman in the third game for a 2-1 lead, but promptly dropped serve in the fourth. Thereafter, games went with serve until the ninth when Ramanathan broke for 5-4 in a game marred by disputed line call that went against Devvarman with the review system failing.

Ramanathan then served out the 10th game with a couple of brilliant inside-out forehand winners that left Devvarman flat-footed.

"I came into this match knowing that Somdev will not be missing much. So, I decided to play aggressively and my game improved as the match progressed. I am very happy with this win and want to do better in the tournament," said an elated Ramanathan.

The 21-year-old Bhambri, ranked 195, unleashed a series of winners, particularly forehand, and served consistently to blast his way past the Spaniard.

Bhambri, who next meets third seeded Italian Fabio Fognini, played with rare freedom, aggression and confidence as he fearlessly went for his shots, finding the angles to outplay the 22-year old Busta who climbed from 715 to 65 during the 2013 season.

"What a way to start the New Year!" exclaimed an overjoyed Bhambri courtside after the match and attributed his victory to some solid off-season training.

"I worked hard during the off-season, especially on my all-court game, pace and power. I guess, it all paid off tonight. I was nervous at the start, but settled down and was more relaxed as I gained in confidence," said Bhambri.

Busta, one of the 14 Spaniards to break into top 100 in 2013, committed far too many errors in between some fine winners and with each mistake, seemed to lose his confidence even as Bhambri kept punching.

The first set was a bit up and down for both players as they traded early breaks before settling down to play some wonderful rallies that saw Bhambri growing in confidence and stature.

The Delhi-based Bhambri then came up with a second break of serve in the ninth game for 5-4 lead and then served out a set aided by two glorious winners on either flank.

In the second set, two searing forehand winners saw Bhambri break Busta for a 2-1 lead and then broke the Spaniard again in the ninth to wrap up the match that lasted 76 minutes.

On the outside court, seventh seeded Frenchman Eduard Roger-Vasselin, ranked 52, eased past Spaniard Albert Ramos 6-1, 6-3 in just 70 minutes to set up a second round clash with Jiri Vesely.

The results:

Singles (1st round): Yuki Bhambri (IND) bt Pablo Carreno Busta (ESP) 6-4, 6-3; Q-Ramkumar Ramanathan (IND) bt Somdev Devvarman (IND) 4-6, 6-3, 6-4; 7-Eduard Roger-Vasselin (FRA) bt Albert Ramos (ESP) 6-1, 6-3; Aljaz Bedene (SVK) bt Q-Henri Laaksonen (SUI) 3-6, 7-5, 7-6 (0); Q-Alexander Kudryavtsev (RUS) bt 8-Roberto Bautista-Agut (ESP) 6-4, 3-6, 6-3; Benjamin Becker (GER) bt Julian Reister (GER) 6-4, 2-1 (retd).