Two ASC Players Triumph in the Davis Cup
By Susana Zaragoza, Social Media and Marketing Manager at Academia Sánchez-Casal, Florida
“The coach works with both the person and the tennis player, using tennis and education as a vehicle for personal development” Emilio Sánchez
Emilio Sánchez has spent more than two decades coaching tennis players, including the thousands of student-athletes that have trained at the Sánchez-Casal Academies in Barcelona and Florida, as well as the Spain Davis Cup team. He was the captain of the Spanish team when they won against their great Argentinian rivals in Mar de Plata in 2008, bringing together a dream team of players including Fernando Verdasco, Feliciano López or David Ferrer, among others. Together, they achieved a landmark victory in winning the Cup away from home after beating their opponents 3-1, giving Spain its 3rd Davis Cup title.
Last week, two ASC players, Ramkumar Ramanthan and Rudy Richter, participated in the first round of the Davis Cup 2017. Ramkumar is playing on the India Davis Cup Team, and Rudy Ritcher on the Guatemalan team.
Before taking part in the tournament, both players returned to the Sánchez-Casal Academy to train under the direction of the ASC coaches and Emilio Sánchez. In his position as the Spanish team’s Davis Cup captain for three years Emilio has been able to provide them with elite training and personal experience that will give them an edge over their competition.
Ramkumar, from Chennai, India, had been training at the Sánchez-Casal Academy in Barcelona for more than three years. Currently, he is India No 2 tennis player, and his World career high is 196. He is playing in the Davis Cup for the second time. Rudy is from Guatemala, and came to ASC Florida for the first time in 2015. This was his third stay with us as he prepared to represent his country’s flag, also for the second time.
The first round of the Davis Cup was a success for them both. Both players’ home teams scored 3-1 against their opponents, India defeating New Zealand 3-1, and Guatemala defeating Mexico 3-1.
During their training at Sánchez-Casal before the Davis Cup, we talked to Ramkumar and Rudy about how they are preparing for the Cup, their outlook on the competition and their future plans.
When did you start playing tennis?
My father encouraged me to start playing when I was five years old. He played tennis at his university, but at that time it was very difficult to balance sport and studies – my parents wanted me to have a better opportunity at doing both. When I was 14 years old, I was selected to play at the Junior Davis Cup. Then the Association and the Indian Federation sent me to the Sánchez-Casal Academy for three months. The first day I practiced with Sergio Casal for 2-3 hours and slept for the rest of the afternoon, it was that hard. I realized then that here I would be able to take the steps I needed, and I decided to stay full time for three years.
What has it been like at the Sánchez-Casal Academy?
When I was 15-17 years old I played lots of tournaments and Futures. At the beginning I was losing a lot of matches and I lost my national ranking. It was tough, but every time I came back to the ASC after a tournament there were my coaches and my friends waiting for me and giving me their support. Sánchez-Casal became my second family. I started growing in self-confidence and winning more tournaments. At the Chennai ATP in 2014 I won against India’s No 1, before losing against Granollers. From then on, I started scaling up the ATP ranking, to no. 500, then no. 300, then no. 200… When I reached no. 300, I realized that in tennis, it’s crucial to play tournaments – you have to play as many big tournaments as you can.
How would you describe your experience at the Davis Cup?
The first time I played in the Davis was last year, against Korea. When the Federation announced me that I was going to play I felt like my dreams had come true. It’s a great honor for me to represent my country. I called Emilio Sánchez and Sergio Casal because I was feeling the pressure and I wanted to get their advice. I won my first Davis match against Korea in four sets, it was epic. I was then selected to play in the second round against Spain; I was going to play against Nadal but in the end I played against Feliciano López. Playing in front of your own crowd is an incredible experience, I can’t describe it – you have to experience it. The Indian crowd is amazing, and my teammates are so supportive.
How are you feeling about the upcoming tournament?
I came specifically to the Sánchez-Casal Academy to train for three weeks before playing against New Zealand. I’ve been training on the court with Emilio Sánchez and he’s given me some invaluable tips, which has given me a lot of confidence.
What’s so special about the Davis?
Normally you play one-on-one or two-against-two, but in the Davis Cup you have a team that is supporting you, and pushing you to give your best performance. On top of that, you are representing your flag, you’re playing for your country, which is a unique experience.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
I would like to thank Sánchez-Casal Academy for everything they’ve done for me. I wasn’t in the ranking when I came here, and now I’m around the world No. 200.
Rudy Richter comes from a family of tennis players. His grandfather, his father and his uncle all played college tennis in the United States. Despite the fact that Rudy liked football, he started playing tennis aged 8 years old, becoming, at 14 years old, one of the best tennis players in Guatemala.
What does the Davis Cup mean to you?
Playing in the Davis Cup was my dream since 2013. In 2016 I was invited to play the qualifying round with eight other players. I played, and got a spot in the team.
Have there been any special moments?
Last year I was the third player of the team, and I played the last match against Uruguay. I was really nervous. It took me five or six games to feel at ease on the court, seven or eight tiebreaks, but I finally won against Santiago Maresca 7-6(4), 7-6(8). It was a very special victory.
What’s your outlook for 2017?
Since my participation in the Davis Cup in July last year, my dreams have come true. This year I want to take advantage of the opportunity and give my best. When they called me again to join the Guatemalan team, I knew that I had to come back to the Sánchez-Casal Academy to train. Here I’ve been able to train with Emilio, Álvaro and the team of coaches.
What will you remember about your stay at the Sánchez-Casal Academy?
The atmosphere, which is so friendly and welcoming – it’s a large academy but still small enough so you don’t feel like you’re just one of a crowd. The trainers pay you a lot of attention, everyone knows each other. I’ve especially loved being able to train with Emilio Sánchez personally, and the team of coaches.
What are your plans for the future?
I would like to go back to college when I finish the Davis. I was studying alternative medicine in Iowa. I might carry on playing tennis once I finish my studies, as there’s no tennis team at my college, but this is something that I’ll decide later on.
After Fernando Verdasco’s victory over Acasuso in 2008, Emilio Sánchez commented at a press conference, “We have achieved something that has never been accomplished in the history of Spanish tennis: we’ve won three games away from home, including the final. […] We have won a great award, thanks to these players.”
All of us here at ASC are so excited to watch Ramkumar and Rudy continue their journey in the Davis Cup, and are cheering them on the whole way! Good luck to you both!
Susana Zaragoza, Social Media and Marketing Manager
Sánchez-Casal Academy, Florida