It was by no means a fault-free final, but it had a fair sprinkle of enthralling moments and fierce baseline exchanges. Sixth seeded Josh Goodall of Great Britain could not have played any harder and unseeded Ramkumar Ramanathan of India could not have been bolder.
The victory was Ramanathan’s in the Cambodian $10,000 ITF Futures for the GLF Cham Prasidh Cup at the National Training Center on Saturday, but what came as a surprise was the scoreline – 6-1, 4-6, 6-4 – which concealed the ferocity of a Goodall comeback from a seemingly hopeless situation in this two-hour contest under an unforgiving sun.
The Indian had turned 20 on November 8 and three weeks later he had picked up his maiden Futures title in the central Indian city of Raipur. Now a week on, he has another triumph to his credit.
Coming from a city like Chennai, which normally experiences weather of the hot, hotter and hottest kind as three seasons most of the year, Phnom Penh’s heat presented no real threat to Ramanathan. But for his rival, it was a different story.
Whether Goodall’s sluggish start had anything to do at all with the hot clime is hard to guess but he certainly was feeling the heat on the court.
Dropping his serve twice in the first set, Goodall was down 0-5 in the blink of an eye, so to speak. He managed to cling on to one service game before Ramanathan sealed the first set tight.
When Ramanathan broke Goodall early to lead 3-1 and was handily placed to stretch it even further. It seemed curtains for the Brit, and it looked as if he could do nothing right, with his rival on the other side of the net doing nothing wrong.
“I thought I was pretty much out of the match at that stage a set down and a break down,” Goodall recalled during his post-match interview.
Yet it was precisely at this crisis point that the 28-year-old shook off his deserting touch and began to get back the sense of the court and timing.
With a noticeable spring in his heel, Goodall not only knotted up the game scores but cracked Ramanathan’s serve to even the sets.
As was to be expected, the third set turned out to be a severe stress test for both. Rallies were getting longer and points wouldn’t come easy.
It was obvious that the outcome would hinge on a few critical points won and a few lost. The winning breakthrough came Ramanathan’s way in the ninth game and, perked up as he was by then, he served out the match with a great degree of confidence.
“I didn’t do any thing different. I stuck to the basics. It was a great comeback by Goodall,” acknowledged Ramanathan.
On Friday, the road to the final was rather bumpy for Goodall. After being swept off his feet in the first set by third seeded Robin Kern of Germany, the Englishman staged a spectacular rally to take the next two sets on tie-breaks to run out a 2-6, 7-6, 7-6 winner.
Ramanathan, on the other hand, got the measure of second seeded Hiroki Kondo of Japan, winning 7-6, 6-4.
In Friday’s thrilling doubles final, the second seeded Japanese pair of Takuto Niki and Arata Onozawa defeated top seeds Toshihide Matsui and Danai Udomchoke 7-6 (10), 7-6 (8).
At the closing ceremony, Industry, Mines and Energy Minister Cham Prasidh, who is also the President of the Tennis Federation of Cambodia, said the Futures series presented an ideal opportunity for the country’s youngsters to learn from these players and improve their tennis skills.
He thanked the GL Finance President Mitsuji Konoshita for sponsoring the second week and also the third Futures the tournament, the GLF Tep Khunnah Trophy, which starts today.