18 Jan “Ram Tough” In Delray Beach
Ram takes out Dimitrov in Singles Semi
By STEVE DORSEY
Delray Beach, Fla. – He was unseeded and quite possibly underrated when he arrived here this week, but Rajeev Ram certainly is not under the radar any longer.
The 31-year-old American with two ATP World Tour titles on his career resume will seek his third on Sunday after he penciled his name into the finals of the Delray Beach Open with a 6-4, 6-3 win against World No. 28 Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria in the first semifinal match Saturday afternoon at the Delray Beach Stadium and Tennis Center.
Dimitrov, the No. 4 seed here, was the last remaining seeded player in the 32-player singles draw that saw the top three seeds exit in first-round upsets early in the week, including Ram’s straight-sets victory against No. 2 seed Bernard Tomic of Australia.
“This was probably two of the best sets of tennis I’ve ever played,” Ram, ranked No. 89 in the world, said. “I felt calm at the start because I felt like I had a good game plan going out. I’d gone through some tough matches this week and that always seems to help in feeling good about yourself.”
Ram said that his game plan was to initiate an offensive attack as much as possible and not let Dimitrov dictate the pace of the match.
“He’s a great, great player when he’s controlling things and when he’s using his forehand,” Ram said of Dimitrov, who now has not beaten Ram in their four meetings, although before Saturday the last time they met was 2012. “That’s not really something that I need to be doing, is running side-to-side chasing after his forehand, so I wanted to try to limit that as much as possible, and take the first strike and I did a good job of that.”
Ram began the match by breaking Dimitrov in the first game and broke the 24-year-old Bulgarian twice in the second set, including the final game when Dimitrov returned a Ram cross-court forehand into the net on the final point of the match.
“It was not my best day,” Dimitrov said. “I was trying everything. I was trying serve-and-volley, I was trying to attack, I was trying to play slice. Absolutely nothing was going my way today. Ball striking wasn’t too bad, it’s just he played a good game and absolutely everything went his way today. . . . He was shooting basically winners every time the ball came to his forehand.”
Both of Ram’s ATP World Tour titles have come at Newport, the last one last year when he beat Ivo Karlovic in the final and finished in the Top 100 of the world rankings for the first time since 2009.
“It certainly feels close to that,” Ram said when asked if his play this week resembles his championship run at Newport last year. “I will be at a career high (in world rankings) on Monday, but my career has always been about improving and enjoying myself out there. I’ve definitely made some improvements in the last eight months and it has certainly showed.”
The only other action Saturday was the first of doubles semifinals in which Oliver Marach and Fabrice Martin defeated Treat Huey and Max Mirnyi 3-6, 6-1, 10-5 to advance to Sunday’s championship match.
Dimitrov said he will try to put the loss to Ram behind him as quickly as possible and move on next to Acapulco.
“It wasn’t the worst week for me, but I’m not going to hide my disappointment,” Dimitrov said of his debut at the Delray Beach Open. “I was out there to win today.”