Indian Wells Masters: Yuki Bhambri sets up showdown with Ramkumar Ramanathan in qualifying
A round-up of the Indian performances in qualifying at the season's opening ATP Masters 1000 tournament
India’s top two singles players, Yuki Bhambri and Ramkumar Ramanathan won their respective matches to set up a blockbuster showdown in the final round of qualifying at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, California on Tuesday. The ninth seeded Bhambri needed 1 hour 39 minutes to stave off the challenge of Dennis Novikov 7-5, 7-5 in the first round.
Ramanathan, who is seeded 20th in qualifying at this tournament, prevailed over the rising American star Michael Mmoh 6-3, 7-5 in 1 hour 20 minutes.
The two meet on Wednesday and the winner of this clash will get a much-coveted berth in the main draw of the season’s first ATP Masters 1000 event.
Bhambri thundered five aces past his American opponent and won 79% of his first serve points. His break point conversion rate was, however, poor. He managed to make use of just three out of his nine opportunities.
The 25-year-old made up for it by saving two out of the three break points that he faced. He finished with a total of 44 points out of 75 while Novikov could bag only 31.
Meanwhile, Ramanathan served six aces and was flawless on break point conversion, winning all four of his chances. He conceded his serve twice, both of which were in the tight second set.
Bhambri leads their rivalry
The 110th ranked Bhambri has been on the comeback trail for the past one year after losing a chunk of the 2016 season due to an elbow injury. The former junior Australian Open champion qualified for the season’s opening Major in 2018 and then reached the final of the Chennai Challenger, where he squandered match points to lose to Jordan Thompson.
Ramanathan, who is placed 25 spots behind Bhambri, reached the final round of qualifying at the Australian Open and also made it through to the main draw of the ATP 250 Delray Beach Open this year.
The two have met thrice with Ramkumar winning their first ever clash at the Indore Challenger in 2014. Since then, the senior Indian has taken control of their rivalry. Yuki brushed aside his younger compatriot at the Chennai Open in 2017 and then followed it up with a comeback victory at the Pune Challenger final the same year.