A confident 23-year-old Ramkumar Ramanathan gave India a head-start in the singles competition of the Tata Open Maharashtra as he advanced to the second round with a well-deserved 7-6, 6-2 win against Spain’s Roberto Carballes Baena here at the Mhalunge Balewadi Stadium, Pune on Monday.
The world no. 148 came into the tournament as a wildcard entrant but produced some inspiring tennis to stamp his authority on the match. He won the tie-break in a closely-contested first set and wrapped up the match with a dominant second set performance to start 2018 with a bang.
Earlier, Frenchman Gilles Simon started off his season with a win against USA’s Tennys Sandgren in straight sets 6-4, 6-1. The 33-year-old had a disappointing 2017 but showed signs of encouragement when he beat the American to advance to the second round.
In the last Doubles match of the day, Arjun Kadhe and Benoit Paire lost a scintillating encounter in three sets 6-1, 5-7, 7-10 against the second-seeded Robin Haase and Matwe Middelkoop. The Indo-French pair won the first set but after an impressive initial start, they lost the momentum in the second and third sets as the Dutch duo used their experience to run away with the victory.
Earlier, in the day, Ricardo Ojeda Lara’s win over sixth-seed Jiri Vesely was one of the first upsets of the Main Draw. The match between the two finished 6-3, 7-6 in Lara’s favour as the Czech had to concede an early defeat at India’s only ATP 250 World Tour event. The 24-year-old Spaniard had qualified for the Main Draw after winning two matches in the Qualifiers and looked like the man-in-form as he won the first set comfortably. In the second set, Vesely tried to bounce back but could not win the set as Lara ran away with a surprise victory.
However, seventh-seeded Mikhail Kukushkin did not let Moldova’s Radu Albot cause an upset as he defeated the latter 6-2, 7-6 (4). The crowd backed Albot but he could not match the efficiency of world no. 74 Kukushkin as the player from Kazakhstan took the first set 6-2. In the second set, Albot tried to put up a fight but Kukushkin used his experience to wrap up the match in his favour.
Eighth-seeded Pierre-Hugues Herbert of France won his first round match in three sets as he beat Italy’s Marco Cecchinato 7-6, 6-7, 6-2 to advance into the next round.
World no. 85 Marton Fucsovics defeated Nicolas Kicker in straight sets 6-0, 6-3 to advance to the second round. The Hungarian produced some exciting tennis to open his campaign in Pune as Kicker looked rusty, winning only 44% on his first service and conceded the loss to the higher-ranked Fucsovics.
Chile’s Nicolas Jarry also advanced to the second round after beating Spain’s Pablo Andujar in three sets 6-7, 6-4, 7-5.
In doubles, the Indian pairing of N Sriram Balaji and Vishnu Vardhan lost to British-Canadian pairing of Neal Skupski and Adil Shamasdin in three sets 3-6, 7-6, 10-6. Balaji/Vardhan pair got vociferous support of the crowd at the centre court that propelled them to win the first set at 6-3. However, in a close second set, Skupski/Shamasdin beat the Indian pair 7-6 after the tie-break. In the decider, the Indian pair seemed to have lost momentum which resulted in them losing the tie-break and the match.
RESULTS – JANUARY 01, 2018
Singles – First Round
[Q] R. Ojeda Lara (ESP) d  J. Vesely (CZE) 63 76(5)
 M. Kukushkin (KAZ) d R. Albot (MDA) 62 76(4)
 P. Herbert (FRA) d M. Cecchinato (ITA) 76(4) 67(6) 62
[WC] R. Ramanathan (IND) d R. Carballes Baena (ESP) 76(4) 62
G. Simon (FRA) d T. Sandgren (USA) 64 61
N. Jarry (CHI) d [PR] P. Andujar (ESP) 67(4) 64 75
M. Fucsovics (HUN) d N. Kicker (ARG) 60 63
Doubles – First Round
 R. Haase (NED) / M. Middelkoop (NED) d [WC] A. Kadhe (IND) / B. Paire (FRA) 16 75 10-7
A. Shamasdin (CAN) / N. Skupski (GBR) d [WC] N. Balaji (IND) / V. Vardhan (IND) 36 76(8) 10-6
ORDER OF PLAY – TUESDAY, JANUARY 02, 2018
CENTRE COURT start 3:00 pm
K. Anderson (RSA) / J. Erlich (ISR) vs P. Herbert (FRA) / G. Simon (FRA)
Not Before 5:00 pm
 R. Haase (NED) vs B. Kavcic (SLO)
Y. Bhambri (IND) vs [WC] A. Kadhe (IND)
 R. Bopanna (IND) / J. Nedunchezhiyan (IND) vs L. Paes (IND) / P. Raja (IND)
COURT 1 start 3:00 pm
[Q] S. Nagal (IND) vs [Q] I. Ivashka (BLR)
L. Djere (SRB) vs M. Copil (ROU)
[Q] T. Monteiro (BRA) vs R. Bemelmans (BEL)
B. Mclachlan (JPN) / A. Molteni (ARG) vs  H. Podlipnik-Castillo (CHI) / A. Vasilevski (BLR)
COURT 2 start 3:00 pm
 R. Lindstedt (SWE) / F. Skugor (CRO) vs M. Fucsovics (HUN) / M. Kukushkin (KAZ)
R. Jebavy (CZE) / J. Vesely (CZE) vs R. Albot (MDA) / T. Sandgren (USA)