Indian tennis is buzzing with a lot of names. Ramanathan Ramkumar, Sumit Nagal, and Yuki Bhambri are a few big names. But one man who has given a sizzling performance in recent years stands apart. He is Prajnesh Gunneswaran. By now, he has lifted 2 ATP Challenger and 8 ITF titles in singles and 1 ITF title in doubles. He is currently the top-ranked Indian singles player and the 6th highest-ranked Indian tennis player in the Open Era.
He shot to fame in October 2016, when he reached his first ATP Challenger singles final at Pune Challenger. In the summit clash, Frenchman Sadio Doumbia handed Indian the defeat. Next year was a bit quiet. He made his Davis Cup debut against Uzbekistan in April.
2018 proved to be the year he was waiting. He reached four ATP Challenger singles finals and won half of those. At Kumming Open, he displayed superiority in his first ATP Challenger singles title. Mohamed Safwat (Egypt) was the loser in the final. Bengaluru Open witnessed an all-Indian final. The verdict went in his favor. Saketh Myneni lost in the title match. With wild force, he lifted his second Challenger singles trophy. At the Ningbo Challenger and Pune Challenger, he battled but finished as runner-up.
At French Open, Gunneswaran lost his debut in the main draw of any grand slam. He lost in the final qualifying round. Despite it, he was chosen as a lucky loser. Nick Kyrgios withdrew from the competition, but Gunneswaran could not participate in the main draw event as he had already left Paris. At Mercedes Cup in Stuttgart, he got the better of Canadian Danis Shapavalov in the first round.
In Round 2, he lost. In August, in Asian Games, he won the bronze medal in the men’s singles tennis, becoming the sixth Indian male tennis winner of a medal at the Asian Games. In 2018, Gunneswaran started the season as World No. 243 but ended the season on a career-high ranking of 104.
In 2019, Gunneswaran started the season by entering the Maharashtra Open, on a wild card. Sadly, he lost in the first round to Michael Mmoh in straight sets. At the Australian Open, he debuted in the main draw of a Grand Slam event. He lost in the first round in straight sets to Frances Tiafoe of the USA. On 11 February 2019, he reached a career-high singles ranking of 97, debuting in the top-100 singles rankings.
In the 2019 BNP Paribas Open, he caught the imagination of the world. Salvator Caruso (Italy) was his victim in 3 set final qualifier. In the first round, he defeated former world number 18, Frenchman Benoit Paire in straight sets.
He moved to the third round of an ATP 1000 event for the first time by beating then 17th seed Nikoloz Basilashvili in three sets. This was his first victory over a top 20 player. Veteran 40-year-old 6 feet 11 inches tall Ivo Karlovic stopped his run in the US desert. Croatian fired 16 bullet aces in his 6-3, 7-6 win. This was Gunneswaran’s opening appearance at an ATP Masters event. Immediately after it, he qualified for the Miami Open. In the opening round, he lost to Jaume Munar.
At the Anning Challenger, in April, southpaw Gunneswaran reached his season’s first ATP Challenger singles final. Here, he tasted defeat to Jay Clarke of Britain. All his efforts paid, and he reached a career-high singles ranking of 75. It provided him direct entry to the main draw at Wimbledon; again, in the first round, giant Milos Raonic marred his ambitions. In the last Grand Slam, Daniil Medvedev taught him tough tennis lessons at Flushing Meadows, the opening round. Both defeats came in straight sets. In Early November, 3 weeks before his wedding, he lost his father.
His career has been hampered by a lot of injuries. 5 years went in receiving knee-related treatments. He almost quit but bounced back. The x-factor of Prajnesh’s game is his big serve and powerful forehand. His weakness was in his backhand. After practicing a lot, now he has made his double-handed backhand a lot sharper. That’s what gave him desired results in a short period.
Chennai has always produced world-class tennis players. Ramanathan Krishnan, Vijay Amritraj, Ramesh Krishnan, Mahesh Bhupati hail from this coastal city. Leander Paes did his schooling and early tennis coaching in Chennai. One of the best tennis academies of India, Britannia Amritraj Tennis Academy, is based here. Prajnesh is another gem, shaped by Tennis culture of the capital of Tamil Nadu. Since Somdev Dev Burman’s 62nd rank in July 2011, no player has reached near it. Breaching it should be his next target. He idealizes Pat Rafter. Well, we all are expecting more firecrackers from his racquet in the coming time.
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