Chennai: A marauding Ramkumar Ramanathan dished out yet another commendable performance, albeit in a losing cause as he exited from Chennai Open after an intensly-fought singles quarterfinal against world number 45 Aljaz Bedene, here on Friday.
The gritty Indian youngster gave a terrific fight to a top-50 player and saved four match points before losing 7-6(5) 4-6 3-6, battling hard for two hours and 13 minutes against Britain's number two player.
"Ramkumar has made good progress. It was not easy. He was playing well and I was fighting. I was focusing on my game. It could have gone either way," Bedene said after the match.
"I was practising with him here last year and he has made progress, specially his forehand. His serve has been superb. I was surprised," he added.
Earlier in the evening, seeking a hat-trick of title triumph, Stanislas Wawrinka cruised into the semifinals with a straight-set 6-4 6-4 victory over Guillermo Garcia Lopez of Spain here today.
In the day's other quarterfinal, third seeded Benoit Paire also scored a straight sets win, beating Italian qualifier Thomas Fabbiano 6-4 7-5 after spending 80 minutes on the court.
Nevertheless, the hero of the day was young Indian, who can hold his head high by putting up a splendid show, courtesy which he has earned crucial 45 ranking points. He beat a top-100 player and a top-200 before braving the challenge of a top-50 player.
From 248, he will surely gain many places and can even break into top-200 for the first time in his career.
Ramkumar's performance is a good news for Indian tennis, which is known to produce quality singles players with monotonic regularity like some of the top nations.
Contending Britain's No 2 player was a task for the Indian, ranked more than 200 places below his fancied opponent.
Ramkumar, though, played fearlessly. He struck powerfully, served well and refused to be intimidated by his rival, who was a runner-up here last year.
Predictably, Bedene stayed strong and was never really troubled by the gutsy Indian. He held his serve quite comfortably even as he made made Ramkumar work hard to earn points.
More than anything, Ramkumar was willing to fight and managed to impress again and this time against a much superior player. It was easy to see that he has improved since mid-2015. His biggest strength was his thunderous serve which he used quite effectively to wriggle out of tight situations.
Ramkumar played with lot of intensity and managed to stay ahead, putting his heart and soul into the contest. When Bedene was serving to stay in the set at 4-5, he must have felt heat with Ramkumar coming out firing on all cylinders in that game.
He succeeded in putting a lot of pressure on the Briton, playing two long rallies - one of 29 shots and the other of 20 shots - taking the second with a backhand lob.
Ramkumar held the 11th game, again forcing Bedene to serve under pressure. It was now imperative for Bedene to hold to stretch it a tie-breaker or surrender the opening set to a player, who was ranked 248th.
The Briton held serve by losing just one point and after 48 minutes into the contest, a tie-breaker was needed to decide the first set.
Ramkumar lost the first point with a double fault but got the break back when Bedene sent a forehand to net. A double fault at 5-5 by Bedene handed the Indian a set point on his own serve and Ramkumar served extremely well to take that point, inducing the Briton to commit an unforced error.
There was no break of serve till the sixth game in the second set and it was Ramkumar, who had two breakpoints in the seventh but Bedene managed to stave off the threat.
Bedene too got a breakpoint, which was also a set point, in the 10th game but Ramkumar saved that. Bedene earned second with a service return winner and Ramkumar handed the set by hitting forehand to net.
After playing intense tennis for about two hours, chinks emerged in Ramkumar's game and Bedene, using all his experience, was quick to cash in on. Bedene broke Ramkumar in the second game and raced to a 3-0 lead.
Soon it was 4-1 and the lead was too big for Ramkumar to cover, against a very seasoned player.
He saved four match points in the 10-minute long ninth game of the third set before losing the match on the fifth.