Indian challenge comes to an end in singles

Kirti Patil
Thursday, 4 January 2018

“It was quiet difficult to start. It was my first appearance of the new season still I am happy the way things went,” said Cilic.

PUNE: The 2014 US Open champion Marin Cilic bombed out Ramkumar Ramanathan, the last remaining Indian face in the men’s singles draw after the top ranked Indian Yuki Bhambri was bundled out by France’s Herbert Pierre-Hugues earlier in the afternoon at the ATP 250 Series Tata Open Maharashtra tennis tournament at the Balewadi Sports Complex here on Wednesday.

Cilic was tested little by Ramanathan-a break of serve in the first set did put little pressure on the Croatian World No 6-but that was just a minor ruffle for the big-serving 29-year-old, who was born in the then Yugoslavia.

There was no shame in losing 4-6, 3-6 for Ramanathan though. The Indian fell quite a few times while going for approach shots, but Ramanathan showed he had the guts to take on the world’s top 6 ranked Cilic, who nonetheless would be happy to have been woken up from the winter break slumber that everyone suffers in the first week of the season.

In this first meeting between the two, Ramanathan found full support from the tennis fans who came down to the stadium despite tense situation in the city and around due to state-wide protests.

Every point he won there were cheers for him to go all the way, however, Cilic took it in the sportsman’s spirit and focused only on the match at hand.

Ramanathan, who are quarterfinalists three years ago in Chennai for his best showing on the ATP Tour event, fought hard after being down 1-5. In the second Cilic lost his serve early on, but there was no panic for the Croat.

“It was quiet difficult to start. It was my first appearance of the new season still I am happy the way things went,” said Cilic.

“Ram came out with aggressive mentality and served well. Things got pretty well. I almost controlled the match except on a few occasions. Otherwise everything went right”.

Speaking about the conditions in Pune as compared to Chennai where he won in 2009, Cilic said: It was like Madrid although it is clay there still both the places are on higher altitude. I am enjoying the condition. Even place is less humid than Chennai”.

After the first set was over Cilic’s complacency caught up with him, but he kept his focus well.

“Ram is the local boy and crowd was going behind him. A few points here and there (it could have been difficult) so had to keep my cool.”

Playing at his favourite setting, the Centre Court of Balewadi Tennis Complex, Yuki Bhambri wasted as many as six break chances in the deciding third set against Herbert Pierre-Hugues and crashed out of this home ATP event in the first round itself.

Bhambri opened gamely in the first set, which he won 6-4, but the Frenchman quickly gathered his resources and attacked Bhambri’s second serve on a day the Indian’s first serves let him down badly.

First set off speculation that Bhambri had found his touch again as he began by breaking Herbert in the first game as the Frenchman double-faulted.

Bhambri held his own in the second with an ace and when he came out to serve at 5-3, he opened up 40-15 lead despite being wrong-footed on the first point. Herbert saved one point when Bhambri’s top spin return fell long, but he could not delay the inevitable as Yuki took the first set 6-4.

An early break in the second set handed Herbert 2-0 lead and that really unsettled Bhambri, whose backhanded slice shots too failed him at crucial moments.

“Yuki was levelling his game I had to do some amazing points to save his game and it was lucky for me that I could do it and after that I broke at 2-all, that was the only bad game Yuki played in the third (set) and after that I was serving very well,” said Herbert.

“I am happy with the win because it was not at all an easy win,” added the Frenchman referring to saving six break points.

Herbert then raced to 5-2 lead after breaking Bhambri early on and closed out the set 6-3 with an ace as an icing.

“When you have a big serve you can count on them. It helps a lot on big points and I could use that today well so I am very happy.

“I did not pick it from anybody it is my way of serving. I pick some from (Pete) Sampras as my dad was big fan of him. I put it bit of him and serve it my way,” said Herbert in the post-match interview.

The 25-year-old Bhambri, who had made it to the quarterfinals in the same event at Chennai in 2014, literally dropped his shoulders as Herbert came out serving for the match,

The Frenchman ranked 37 places about Bhambri at No 81, sent down an ace at a speed of 204km per hour. And when he served a double fault to be 15-30, he leveled the scores with a 207kmph service.

The difference between the two was evident as Herbert used his service as a big weapon, firing as many as 13 aces, while Bhambri’s first serve deserted him. His first serve percentage read just 57.

- 2017 W-L: 10-20 (6-13 on hard)
- 2017 Titles: 0/Career Titles: 0
- Date of Birth: March 18, 1991
- ATP Ranking: 81
- Tournament History: Opened on Monday with a 7-6, 6-7, 6-2 win over Cecchinato in 2h, 24m in main draw debut.
- In previous visit in 2013, lost in 1R of qualifying to James Ward
- Last year finished No. 81 in ATP Rankings, his second straight Top 100 season (No. 78 in 2016).
- Earned biggest win of career over No. 8 Thiem to reach Rotterdam SF as a qualifier (lost to Goffin)
- Achieved career-high No. 63 in ATP Rankings on August 14
- Helped France to Davis Cup title with 3-0 doubles record.

- 2017 W-L: 44-22 (18-15 on hard)
- 2017 Titles: 1 / Career Titles: 17
- Date of Birth: September 28, 1988
- ATP Ranking: 6
- Tournament History (Best Result): 14-4 (2009-10 Champion)
- Tournament History: Top Croat won back-to-back titles in 2009 (d. Devvarman) and 2010 (d. No.21 Wawrinka).
- Also SF in 2008 debut (l. to Youzhny) and QF in 2013 (l. to Paire). Last year lost in 2R after bye (l. to Kovalik)
- Achieved career-high No. 4 in ATP Rankings on October 16 before finishing No. 6 for second straight year and in

- Appeared in 2nd Grand Slam final at Wimbledon (d. Muller in 5 sets and Querrey in 4 sets, l. to Federer)
- Captured ATP World Tour title for 10th straight year with 2nd clay-court championship at Istanbul (d. Raonic)
- Became 3rd Croat with 400 wins by beating Darcis in Istanbul QF on May 5 (also Ivanisevic and Ljubicic)
- Reached Roland Garros QF for 1st time and has now appeared in all 4 Grand Slam QFs (l. to Wawrinka)
- Fell to 1-8 lifetime at Nitto ATP Finals with losses to A. Zverev, Sock and Federer.

Second Round: 8-Pierre-Hugues Herbert (Fra) bt Yuki  Bhambri (Ind) 4-6, 6-3, 6-4; 4- Benoit  Paire (Fra) bt Marton Fucsovics (Hun) 6-4, 6-7 (4-7), 7-6 (8-6); 5-Robin Haase (Ned) bt Nicolas Jarry (Chi) 3-6, 7-6 (7-5), 7-5; Gilles Simon (Fra) bt 3-Roberto Bautista Agut (Esp) 6-3, 7-6 (7-5); 1-Marin Cilic (Cro) bt wc-Ramkumar Ramanathan (Ind) 6-4, 6-3; 2-Kevin  Anderson (Rsa) bt q-Thiago Monteiro (Bra) v7-6 (7-4), 3-2 (retd); 7-Mikhail Kukushkin (Kaz) bt Laslo Djere (Srb) 7-5, 7-6 (7-5); q-Ricardo Ojeda Lara (Esp) bt q-Ilya Ivashka (Blr) 6-4, 6-4.

First round: Yuki  Bhambri (Ind) and Divij. Sharan (Ind) bt Laslo Djere (Srb) and Blaz Kavcic (Slo) 6-2, 6-2; Roman Jebavy (Cze) and Jiri Vesely (Cze) bt 3-Hans Podlipnik-Castillo (Chi) and Andrei Vasilevski (Blr) 7-6 (7-4), 7-5.

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