Ramkumar Ramanathan's 21st attempt at making the main draw of a Grand Slam since 2015 fell by the wayside on Thursday at Roehampton. In the third, and final, round of Wimbledon qualifying, he lost 3-6, 6-3, 6-7(2), 6-3, 9-11 to Australia's Marc Polmans. In the three-and-a-half-hour contest, Ramanathan saved four match points but buckled at 9-10 in the fifth set under Polmans' decisive winners.
With his loss on Court 8, Ramanathan has been denied a chance to make the main draw of a major once again. He's only ever come this close once before " losing in the third round of qualifying at 2018 Australian Open. On grass, arguably his most lethal surface, he's reached the second round of qualifying twice. Disappointingly for Ramanathan, he's the only player among the current crop to not have played a Grand Slam.
On key statistics, Ramanathan held the edge. Aces: 29 to 5. Break points: 3/8 to 3/12. Winners: 94 to 75. But he had more double faults: 9 to Polmans' 4. Poorer with the first serves and in converting them into points won. And on return points won (28 percent to 32 percent) but most tellingly in unforced errors. Where Polmans made 20 unforced errors, Ramanathan made 33. Overall, Polmans won only five more points, but it is effectively a game " the difference in a close match like this.
"It was a matter of points. On grass it is always like this. Marc is a good player, he played well in the key moments in the fifth set. It was a good match overall for both of us," Ramanathan said in the post-match interaction.
"It was very close. I tried all the ways I could do to win the match. I did most of the things right, could have done couple of things touch better. But that's how it goes, I am happy I got two good matches here and looking forward to the future."
Ramanathan went a set down and a break to open the second set before clawing his way back. Up until then, he had been unable to make headway on the Polmans serve with the Aussie equally lethal at the net and on serve.
In the third set, Ramanathan had three break point chances in the third game but was unable to make it count. In the next game, he saved two of his own. From then on, there was no separating the two and the match went into a tiebreak. The World No 212 Ramanathan played an error-filled tiebreak to hand the advantage to the Aussie who will be making his maiden Wimbledon main draw appearance.
The Indian didn't let the Aussie run away with things in the fourth to take a 3-0 lead and that single break of serve proved enough to force a decisive fifth set.
In the fifth set, Ramanathan saved a match point in the 10th game to keep his chances and the match alive. In the next game, Polmans survived from 0-30 down to bring up big serves and even bigger groundstrokes.
At 5-6, Ramanathan served to stay in the match again. He let a ball pass, while approaching the net, which landed in to give Polmans a glimmer of hope at 0-30. Couple of errors led to two more match point chances when Ramanathan brought about his trustworthy serve to bang in aces after another. In doing so, he saved three more match points, four in total now, to keep the contest alive.
Unable to get much of a look on the Indian's serve, Polmans only hoped to get more second serves or brace for a long match completely unaware of the 12-12 tiebreaker rule. "I was hoping for a second serve. He didn't give me an opportunity to try and get into rallies. It was definitely frustrating. But I was leading and knew the pressure was going to mount on him more than me. So, I was just hoping that he missed his first serves because he wasn't giving me much of a look in the fifth set," said the Aussie who hopes to play Roger Federer in the first round.
But the breakthrough arrived in the 59th game of the match. With the match going long, Polmans finally found his return game with two blistering winners. And on the fifth match point, his return was strong enough that Ramanathan was unable to get it back. A jubilant Aussie fell to the ground in celebration for what he described as one of the three best wins of his career.
It's not all over for Ramanathan. Or at least he would hope so. The Indian could still make the main draw via the lucky loser route provided there are pull outs between now and the start of the tournament on Monday.
"I think I should stay and sign for lucky loser because you never know. It is a Grand Slam, last round qualifying. So, I think I should stay here, wait and see how it goes," he stated.
Ramanathan had a positive week with two good wins and a strong show against Polmans but the Indian would rue this as an opportunity lost on a surface he likes and at a tournament that is "special" for him.
For India, there will be no representative in the singles main draw for a second straight Slam and the wait for a player coming through Wimbledon qualifying extends to 20 years (last was Leander Paes in 2001).