Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Interview: Enjoy my rivalry with Somdev: Ramakumar Ramanathan

He has injected a fresh dose of excitement into Indian tennis, which has struggled to churn out names that can be seen doing great things for the country. Ramkumar Ramanathan is increasingly being talked about as the player to watch out for future – the 20-year-old Chennai lad made a phenomenal climb in rankings to break into the top-250, occupying the 211th position last November.

Ramkumar, who is under a scholarship scheme with the Gas Authority of India (GAIL), has been training in Spain over the past few years. The 6-foot-2-inch youngster first shot into prominence when he stunned the country’s top ranked player Somdev Devvarman at the 2014 Chennai Open and again defeated him at the recent Kolkata Open. Ramkumar talked on a range of topics concerning tennis in an exclusive interview.

Excerpts:
Q You had a significant ranking leap in 2014 as you broke into the top-250. What would you attribute to your superb run last year?
I have really worked hard on my game and I think the results are on account of that. I strived for consistency, always looking to raise the improvement bar and pretty chuffed with the way things have panned out for me. Tennis is all about having the right attitude backed by skill sets. Possessing the right attitude holds the key.


Q You have been training in Spain for the past four years. Tell us a bit about your stint over there?

I first went to Spain and spent three months over there. In the subsequent years, I have spent most part of the year over there and only came to India for my exams. I have worked under various coaches like Emilo Sanchez, Sergio Casal and Juan Balcells. The good thing about my training stint in Spain is that I don’t have to waste much time in travelling as my place of stay and training is the same, which allows me to focus on my game alone. I train for seven hours (gym and playing sessions) a day except for Sunday. My fitness has also improved in Spain. The Tamil Nadu Tennis Association (TNTA) along with IMG has supported me all these years and I owe a lot to them besides my dad, who has sacrificed a lot to see me emerge as a solid tennis player.

Q You first came into the limelight when you upset India’s top-ranked player Somdev Devvarman at the 2014 Aircel Chennai Open. You again beat him at the recent Kolkata Open Challenger Event. How do you look at your rivalry with him?
He is a great bloke and has done well for the country. I enjoy my rivalry with Somdev and I respect him for all he has achieved for the country.

Q Your are now ranked 257 in the world. When can we see you break into the top-100?
Look, it is difficult to set a time-frame as things can be unpredictable on court. You never know it can happen very soon – who knows I may have a great run in a big event which can boost my rankings – it is also possible that it may take a few seasons for me to break into the top-100.


Q India’s Davis Cup non-playing captain Anand Amritraj says you are the ‘rising star of Indian tennis’. What’s your take?
I’m glad that he thinks highly of me, but at the same time there is plenty of room for improvement. I have done well to reach where I am now, but there is a long way to go. I will keep working hard and stay focused.

Q Chennai has a rich tennis legacy. The likes of Ramanathan Krishnan, Vijay Amritraj and Ramesh Krishnan have served the country with distinction. It is after so many years that Chennai has found in you who can take the legacy forward.
All these guys you have mentioned were stalwarts. As I said, I have a long path to tread and for now I’m just looking to keep improving and move up in the rankings.


Q How do you assess the state of Indian tennis?

Well, a lot of talented juniors are coming through and I’m sure with the right support, they can do well for the country.

Q What are the upcoming tournaments you are taking part?
I will be departing for Spain later this month, just waiting for the visa to be through. I will be playing in quite a few Challengers in Spain alongside my training stint over there.

Q Tennis players have a hectic schedule. How do you unwind when you are not playing tennis?
I like to read books and prefer playing play poker online!
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