Saturn Oil Open 2023: R. Ramanathan (IND) / N. Zimonjic (SRB) – D. Brown (JAM) / T. Sandkaulen (GER) 4-6 7-6(4) x-1(9-11))

A 75k ATP Challenger right next to the city where I grew up? Troisdorf near Bonn and their tennis club TC Rot-Weiss Troisdorf, hosted a professional tournament for the second time at all in the last week of May 2023. Unfortunately, my time and health to attend the matches was really limited – which was especially bad, as two Indian tennis players, Sumit Nagal and Ramkumar Ramanathan, were in the acceptance list.

At least, I have been able to see a match of Ramkumar – and regarding the draw, his first round doubles was an absolute treat for doubles tennis fans. Partnering the 46 year old former Number 1 tennis legend Nenad Zimonjic (Serbia), he faced Jamaican (and somehow still German… and definitely local…) Dustin Brown and German Tim Sandkaulen. Definitely quite some tennis experience and potential for some felt ball fun on the B&B Court, which was the second court for men’s matches (there was a 25k women in parallel…) on that 31st May 2023.


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Ramanathan / Zimonjic – Brown / Sandkaulen – Match

After the coin toss, the Indian-Serbian pairing had to serve first. To say it in a positive way you saw from the very beginning that the (in my view: stupid) No Ad rule leads to pressure on the server from the very beginning. While Ramanathan and ATP#228 Doubles ranked Sandkaulen had an easy task, Zimonjic and Brown both started the match with a break against their serve. A beautiful return winner by Brown in the fifth game of the match at Deuce gave another lead for him and his German partner – and this time, this was the key step to win the first set. Even though Brown himself faced two double faults at own serve in the eighth game, he somehow managed to survive, while all other games were rather straight. Not too many rallies in that first set on the Rheinland clay court – but here and there the two experienced guys on court did show their talent and experience.


2nd Set Tie Break Battle with Extra Trouble

The match stayed close in the second set. Again, there were two early breaks – but this time it were Ramanathan and Sandkaulen, who got beaten by their opponents. The rallies got a bit longer and there were some really nice shots here and here now, but on the other hand, the main actors on court seemed to be better in the match now (even though you had some unforced errors here and there). Zimonjic struggled a bit the second time he served in the second set, but Ramanathan had a nice volley shot here to escape the struggle at deuce.

The set went more and more straight into the tie break. There was quite some discussion at the second point, where Brown claimed his own serve was a let one so that the beautiful return by Zimonjic should not have counted as a winner. I cannot validate it, but quite some people around me felt the same – but not the umpire. Yeah, close match, unfortunate situation, but I absolutely did not like that this decision did feel to be present for the whole tie break with multiple bad comments against the chair umpire. He is the guys who held the rules, he did not react at all, so he is also responsible for it – I don’t understand tennis that they allow this kind of behavior to their game leads. Any other actor on the court made much more mistakes than this guy, I felt sad about this.

Long story – the tie break felt to become a long one as well, but two points against Sandkaulen’s serve were finally likely the deciding momentum for this set. The tie-break closed with 7-4 for the Indian-Serbian pairing, who forced the match to be decided by the match tie break.


The Match Tie Break

Just when the match gained some more quality and maybe also had some emotional vibes to become a great one, the match went into the match tie-break, which was introduced to make it even more thrilling and attractive. First team for ten points at a two points difference, that’s what doubles tennis is all about nowadays. The match tie break was an up and down. The first “mini break” by Zimonjic who unluckily hit the head of Brown. An amazing return in the seventh point eliminated that advantage.  There were not too many of these turnovers – the nicest one was likely a beautiful lob by Brown in the 14th game.

An ace by the Jamaican at 8-8 lead to the first match point of the this battle, but Zimonjic survived at second first, just to catch another “mini break” the serve thereafter. Sandkaulen was now on the server’s mount and could stand the pressure, so that a tight (and finally also very deserved) 11-9 third set match tie break score gave the locals the ticket to the doubles’ quarter final.


Ramanathan / Zimonjic – Brown / Sandkaulen – Gallery

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