Cilic too good for RamkumarJanuary 4, 2018
World No. 6 Marin Cilic was the highest-ranked player Ramkumar Ramanathan had ever faced. The gulf in class showed as the Croat ousted the 23-year-old 6-4, 6-3 on Wednesday to enter the quarterfinals of the Tata Open Maharashtra.
There was however not such cheer for the tournament’s defending champion and third seed Roberto Bautista Agut who was felled by Frenchman Gilles Simon 6-3, 7-6(5).
It was not before the Spaniard went down swinging — first clawing his way back from a double break in the second set and then complaining about the balls being used (Yonex instead of Australian Open’s Wilson). But on the day, Simon was clearly the better player.
The most anticipated clash of the day was the one between Cilic and Ramkumar. From the outset the Indian exhibited all the traits of someone willing to poke a beehive with a giant stick.
Ramkumar tried to serve and volley, unmindful of the 2014 US Open champion’s superior heft of stroke. When forced to retreat deep behind his baseline, he tried to lob Cilic’s 6’6” frame.
The crowd, with its high decibel cheers, seemed a willing partner. However, it only resulted in Cilic erupting. Ramkumar managed to stage a mini-rebellion by breaking Cilic when the latter was serving for the first set at 5-3. But it was easily snuffed out in the very next game with a break to love. The top seed will next play France’s Pierre-Hugues Herbert, who beat Yuki Bhambri 4-6, 6-3, 6-4.
In the first two sets, the match never took off as a contest. To start with, Herbert resembled a loose canon. He opened with an ace and ended up being broken in the first game courtesy a double fault. And by the time he could gather himself — by switching to a racquet with the right tension — Bhambri had established a strong-enough foothold to win the set.
Things however turned in the second set, as Bhambri dropped guard. Herbert is predominantly a singles player, but has to his credit two Major doubles titles. And it showed in the many different facets of doubles game he brought into play — at its best in the remarkable angles he found and the reflexes at the net and at its worst in the shots into the tramlines. An early break in the set was enough to level matters. It was in the first four games of the third set however that the match hit a competitive high with engaging, all-action play. In two consecutive games, Bhambri had Herbert at 0-40 but let the latter escape.
Then, at 2-2, with his spirit broken, Bhambri let his game crumble by conceding serve. It was a blow from which he never recovered.
Earlier on Tuesday, the much-anticipated doubles match between Leander Paes–Purav Raja and Rohan Bopanna–Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan proved uncompetitive as defending champions Bopanna and Jeevan outclassed their opponents 6-3, 6-2 in under an hour.
The results: Singles: Second round: Marin Cilic (Cro) bt Ramkumar Ramanathan 6-4, 6-3; Pierre-Hugues Herbert (Fra) bt Yuki Bhambri 4-6, 6-3, 6-4; Benoit Paire (Fra) bt Marton Fucsovics (Hun) 6-4, 6-7 (4), 7-6 (6); Robin Hasse (Ned) bt Nicolas Jarry (Chi) 3-6, 7-6 (5), 7-5; Gilles Simon (Fra) bt Roberto Bautista Agut (Esp) 6-3, 7-6 (5); Mikhail Kukushkin (Kaz) bt Laslo Djere (Srb) 7-5, 7-6(5).
Doubles: Quarterfinals: Roman Jebavy & Jiri Vesely (Cze) bt Hans Podlipnik-Castillo (Chi) & Andrei Vasilevski (Blr) 7-6 (4), 7-5 .