As India turns 70, we celebrate Eight For Eighty - the eight sportspersons who we feel will carry the torch for the next decade.
The story so far
Bursting onto the scene at the 2014 Chennai Open with an upset first-round win over Somdev Devvarman, then India's top singles player, Ramkumar Ramanathan has since been lurking in the wings. Picking the odd Futures title and plodding his way through the smaller tournaments, it was not until this year that his big breakthrough finally came.
Playing three top-100 players and beating two of them - a shock win over World No. 8 Dominic Thiem and a gallant fight against Australian Open semifinalist Marcos Baghdatis at the Antalya Open in June - had the Chennai boy being searched on Google, lavished praise on and labeled the redeemer of Indian tennis' singles dream. Earning 57 points, the Sanchez-Casal academy product went past Yuki Bhambri to briefly become India's highest-ranked men's singles player at No. 184. He's gained four more places since and from here, it can only get better.
Blessed with a booming serve and a ferocious inside-out forehand, Ramkumar's potential was never in doubt. But now he's found the belief to turn it into results that matter. "I just have to keep getting physically fitter, stronger and more aggressive at crunch moments," he says. This week has begun with a dollop of luck for the Indian, finding himself in the main draw of the Cincinnati Masters event as a lucky loser after Gael Monfils pulled out due to an illness.
He made good of the chance with a come-from-behind win over USA's Christopher Eubanks. "When I started the year I just wanted to finish below 150, but the way I'm playing now, I just have to keep going," he adds. Apart from a possible climb into the top 100 in the months to come, the 22-year-old carries the promise of reviving flagging Indian singles hopes and offering tennis fans joy outside doubles. Ramkumar has also been named in India's squad for next month's Davis Cup World Group Playoff tie away to Canada.
"Ramkumar always had a big game, what he lacked was the confidence to be able to turn it into big wins. Now, with recent victories, that's changing for sure. Also he's picking the right tournaments now, not confining himself to Futures events and pushing his limits."
--Zeeshan Ali, India's Davis Cup coach