New Delhi: N Sriram Balaji got his act together in time as he overcame a sluggish start to subdue Ramkumar Ramnathan in a three-setter and move to the singles quarter-finals of the USD 10,000 ITF Futures tournament on Wednesday. Third seed Balaji scored a 4-6 6-3 6-2 win in the second round in two hours and seven minutes to assert his supremacy over his young rival as he extended his clean head-to-head record against the Chennai boy to 4-0.
By his own admission, Balaji forgot that he relies much on his net play and after losing the first set, he woke up and changed his strategy. He started coming more on net and with some smart volleys, he broke the momentum of his young opponent, who was not trying too hard and subsequently started hitting unforced errors.
To his credit, Ramkumar fought well in the first set. He broke his nemesis in the very first game and that break stayed with him, helping him pocket the first set. A change in tactics and staying calm helped Balaji to claw his way back as he broke Ramkumar in the eighth game of the second set and comfortably brought the match to level terms.
His confidence shaken, Ramkumar dropped serve in the first game. He saved another in the third game to get on board. After two more chances in the fifth, Ramkumar did not help his cause when he hit a forehand long on the third break chance.Balaji was leading 4-1 that became 5-1 with an easy hold. He served out the match when Ramkumar hit a backhand wide.