Pune: France's Pierre-Hugues Herbert in action against India's Yuki Bhambri during their second round match at Tata Open Maharashtra in Pune on Wednesday. PTI Photo (PTI1_3_2018_000172A)
Ramkumar Ramanathan enhanced his reputation of being a passionate fighter even in defeat against a much superior Marin Cilic while Yuki Bhambri squandered six breakpoint chances to crash out of the Tata Open Maharashtra here on Wednesday.
Bhambri's first serve let him down as he bowed out with a 6-4, 3-6, 4-6 defeat against the eighth seed Pierre-Hugues Herbert in the second round.
In complete contrast, Ramkumar played with a lot of passion against the 2014 US Open champion and the 2017 Wimbledon finalist before bowing out 4-6, 3-6 in the second round.
Ramkumar struggled to cope with Cilic's power-packed game but to his credit, the 23-year-old did not buckle. He fought, with his heart and with a fearless approach. It was never enough to trouble Cilic though.
Ramkumar stood several feet behind the baseline initially to counter the fiery groundstrokes from Cilic but gradually grew in confidence and even got some points through serve and volley.
Ramkumar's defeat meant that the Indian challenge in singles ended at the home event.
Cilic played like a champion and lost only three points on his serve in the first set and five in the second.
In other matches, world number 89 Gilles Simon stunned defending champion and world number 20 Roberto Bautista Agut 6-3, 7-6(5) to move to the quarterfinals.
Robin Haase came from behind to defeat Nicolas Jarry 3-6, 7-6(5), 7-5 and will play Benoit Paire, who also had to fight hard before winning 4-6, 7-6(4), 7-6(6) against Marton Fucsovics.
Bhambri, ranked 118, needed to play percentage tennis against a rival like Herbert, ranked 81 but he struggled. His second serve hardly had any sting, making it easier for Herbert to attack.
Herbert, after a shaky start, got better and better. He soaked up the pressure and came out strong. His body language remained strong while Bhambri could not assert himself despite being in an advantageous position in the third set.
In the second game of the decider, Herbert was down 0-40 but the Indian youngster, who has won 11 matches in a row on these courts, could not take advantage. Herbert cashed in to come through victorious.
While Herbert used his service as a big weapon, firing as many as 13 aces, Bhambri's first serve deserted him. His first serve percentage read just 57 at the end of the match.
Results (singles, second round): Benoit Paire bt Marton Fucsovics 4-6, 7-6, 7-6; Pierre-Hugues Herbert bt Yuki Bhambri 4-6, 6-3, 6-4; Robin Haase bt Nicolas Jarry 3-6, 7-6, 7-5; Gilles Simon bt Roberto Bautista 6-3, 7-6; Mikail Kukushkin bt Laslo Djere 7-5, 7-6; Marin Cilic bt Ramkumar Ramanathan 6-4, 6-3; Ricardo Ojeda bt Ilya Ivashka 6-4, 6-4; Kevin Anderson bt Thiago Monteiro 7-6, 3-2 (ret). Doubles: Yuki Bhambri/ Divij Sharan bt Laslo Djere/ Blaz Kavcic 6-2, 6-2.