A “calmer and focussed” Ramkumar Ramanthan is not crying over losing out on the chance to create history in Indian tennis and he would rather savour the priceless moment of earning his maiden singles final on ATP World Tour.
Ramkumar became the first Indian in seven years to advance to the singles final of an ATP World Tour event but missed out on ending India’s 20-year title drought when he lost the Hall of Fame final to Steven Johnson on Sunday night.
“I was disappointed for not winning the final but it is tough to reach this far. I just fell short. I will watch the match (recording) again and see (what went wrong) but it’s a learning experience. And nothing can buy this moment, so I will take positives out of it,” Ramkumar told PTI from Newport.
The last Indian to win an ATP singles trophy was Leander Paes, who incidentally had won on the grass courts of the same Hall of Fame tournament in 1998.
Ramkumar was not in great form coming into the tournament, having lost four first-round matches in a row — Winnetka, Recanati, Wimbledon qualifiers and Ilkley — but went on to create the best week of his career thus far.
He said by adding meditation and yoga to his routine, he has learnt to transform himself from being someone who will be defensive when attacked, to a player who will not buckle in pressure cooker situations.
Plus, after the big confidence-boosting win over top-10 player Dominic Thiem, things have been falling in place for the Chennai boy.
Asked about the chance to create history and he said, “I had some tough days before this but I am trying to be calmer and focused. I now meditate every morning and it helps in staying calm in tough situations. It helps in keeping things under control.”
“I regularly took yoga and meditation classes when I was 12-13 years old but then I stopped. Now for the past one year, I have added it to my routine and it does make a huge difference to my game. I am not putting myself under pressure now.
“I have been working on it and try to stay fresh and keep 100 per cent energy on the court. The second round the match against Denis Kundla (at Newport) was tough but I remained composed.
“Then Leander Paes was also watching from the stands and supported me. Sanjay sir also guided me. These little things also helped me stay mentally strong.”
Paes has been mentoring Ramkumar for some time. The two trained during the Maharashtra Open in Pune and also played a Challenger together before that.
Ramkumar has four runner-up finishes on the ATP Challenger Tour in the last 15 months but the biggest moment came when he vanquished then world number eight Dominic Thiem at Antalya Open after qualifying for the ATP 250 event.
Ramkumar said that win did change him as a player.
“It was not easy beating top-10 player Thiem. That win gave me the self-belief that I can play well against anyone. My coaches back in Spain, Emilio Sanchez and Angel Gimenez, were telling me some things but that win really boosted my confidence.”
The runner-up finish in Newport has catapulted him to a career-best rank of 115 which means he had a realistic chance to better his rank and earn himself a maiden appearance in the main draw of a Grand Slam — the US Open. If not, he could have tried to make it via Qualifiers.
But he has committed to play the Asian Games, which will partially clash with the US Open, the last Grand Slam of the 2018 season.
“It’s okay. Playing for India is also important. It’s just one week. It’s prestigious, a big opportunity. I will give my best to win a medal for India. I always wanted to play Asian Games.”
Ramkumar did not forget to thank all the people who have helped him become a better player.
“I thank my junior days coaches Chandrasekhar sir, Rajiv Naidu sir, Mr. Balasubramanian, his cousin Sundaram for supporting me and my coaches at Sanchez Casal Academy. And Indian Oil Corporation, without their support, this would not have been possible.