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 $10,000 ITF Futures tournament,here on Wednesday. The third seed 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.
Balaji started coming to the net and broke the momentum of his young opponent with some smart volleys,forcing his opponent into making unforced errors.
To his credit,Ramkumar fought well in the first set. He broke in the very first game and that break stayed level with him,helping him pocketing the 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 of the third. 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. “Net play is my game. I forgot that in the first set. I was tentative,not playing my shots. I was not playing my best. But now I have to be ready for tough matches ahead,” Balaji,who trains in Germany with Benjamin Abraham,said after his win.
Playing on court number one,top seed Yuki Bhambri was in for a surprise as he found himself facing two set points in the opening set against national championship runner-up Arjun Kadhe,but made a strong comeback for a 7-5 6-1 win in one hour and 15 minutes. Earleir,Vishnu Vardhan made short work of Abdullah Shaikh 6-2 6-3 in just one hour and two minutes.