Ram off to encouraging start after first title

INDIANAPOLIS: Local tennis hero Rajeev Ram backed up the career-first title he won a week ago at Newport with a 6-3, 7-5 first-round victory Sunday over fellow wild card Devin Britton at the Indianapolis Championships.

Ram, now knocking on the door of the Top 100 in the men's tennis rankings at 108th, claimed the Newport crown in a shock ending to an event where he only entered the main draw after Mardy Fish withdrew to make an emergency appearance for the US Davis Cup team in Croatia.

The persistent 25-year-old from nearby Carmel, Indiana, began well at his home event, which he has played on six previous occasions, never moving past the third round (2005).

Ram now awaits the winner of the first round match between fellow American Sam Querrey and France's Arnaud Clement on Monday.

Ram has found his self-confidence boosted by his showing in Newport and hopes to carry the momentum forward as he begins his summer cement season in the run-up to the US Open.

"I played well but I'm really not surprised. This form only shows the results of my hard work over the past few seasons," said the journeyman who played only one more ATP-level match last year after Indy last July. He started 2009 with a first-round loss to Ivo Karlovic in Chennai, India.

Ram was beaten in the first round at Wimbledon by German Philipp Petzschner, with Chennai, Wimbledon and Newport his only elite-level events so far in this year.

Ram broke the inexperienced Britton three times to take victory in just over an hour and a quarter, under cloudy skies with a threat of rain.

Russian Dmitry Tursunov, the 2007 champion and losing finalist a year ago to Frenchman Gilles Simon, takes the top seeding ahead ahead of Israeli Davis Cup standout from last weekend's upset of Russia, Dudi Sela.