Making a stupendous start to the fresh season, Ramkumar Ramanathan scalped higher-ranked Roberto Carballes Baena to set up a second round clash with tournament-favourite Marin Cilic at the inaugural Tata Open Maharashtra, in Pune, on Monday night.
Coming into the season-opening ATP 250 tournament with some memorable wins in 2017, the 148th-ranked Ramkumar prevailed 7-6(4), 6-2 over Carballes Baena, ranked 42 places above him.
The Indian will next play world number six Cilic, who had finished runner-up to Roger Federer at the Wimbledon championships last year. While Cilic will be outright favourite in the next match, Ramkumar would take some inspiration from his confidence-boosting win over world number eight Dominic Thiem at Antalya Open last season.
"I have lot of respect for him, I am going to give my best. I want to present a good fight before the home crowd. Whatever happens, happens. What you can expect from me is good fight from first point to last," said Ramkumar.
"I felt comfortable coming onto the net. I did whatever I could. There is still a long way to go. Last year I was doing lot of serve and volley, the courts here are fast so why not. I am going to stick to it. Whatever works on a day," he said.
The 23-year-old Indian youngster looked in control of his game and the match even as he missed a few opportunities to put the Spaniard under pressure early in the contest. At 3-2, he could have broken his rival and nose ahead but did not convert the chance.
Serving well, he closed the ninth game at love with an ace to take a 5-4 lead but Carballes Baena was up to the task as he too served at love to make it 5-5.
In the beginning of the second set, Baena served a double fault and then hit a forehand wide on the breakpoint to let Ramkumar seize the initiative. With two strong service games, Ramkumar opened up a 3-1 lead.
Ramkumar had a breakpoint in the fifth game as well but the Spaniard managed to save it. However, he did not squander the chance in the seventh game, and cruised to the win. He closed the match with an ace.
The biggest upset of the day was Spanish qualifier Ricardo Ojeda Lara's win over sixth seed Czech Jiri Vesely.
Lara, ranked as low as 198 shocked the world number 68 with a 6-3 7-6(5) scoreline. He will now clash with the winner of the match between qualifiers Sumit Nagal and Ilya Ivashka.
Seventh seed Kazakh Mikhail Kukushkin quelled a late challenge from Moldova's Radu Albot for a 6-2, 7-6(4) win in his opening round.
In a one-sided match, world no. 85 Marton Fucsovics defeated Nicolas Kicker for the loss of just three games to set up a clash against fourth seed Frenchman Benoit Paire.
In the doubles, two Indian pairs were in action but both bowed after winning their first sets.
Wild card entrants Vishnu Vardhan and N Sriram Balaji lost 6-3, 6-7(8), 6-10 to the Canadian-American pair of Adil Shamasdin and Neal Skupski.
Local boy Arjun Kadhe and Paire lost 6-1, 5-7, 7-10 to second seeds Robin Haase and Matwe Middelkoop.