PUNE: In a year when Prajnesh Gunneswaran made breakthrough on the ATP circuit with two Challenger titles and went closer to the 100 in the world ranking, the Indian failed to end 2018 on a positive note when he was bumped out of the ATP 250 Tata Open Maharashtra tennis event at the Balewadi Tennis Complex here on Monday evening.
Playing against Michael Mmoh of the United States with whom he trained for a few weeks in the off season, Prajnesh wasn’t too comfortable on the same court where he finished runners-up last month.
The wildcard entrant wasted a good chance to earn crucial ranking points ahead of the year’s first Grand Slam, the Australian Open when he lost 5-7, 3-6 leaving India’s hopes in the singles on Ramkumar Ramanathan, Saketh Myneni and Arjuna Kadhe.
DAY OFF UPSETS
The first day of Tata Open Maharashtra wasn’t without upsets as two seeded players were shown exit doors—interestingly both the seeds were from Spain.
First it was Belgian Steve Darcis who shot out No 6 seed Roberto Carballes Baena 6-3, 6-4 and then Russia’s Evgeny Donskoy defeated the eighth seeded Pablo Andujar 6-3, 5-7, 7-6 (8-6) in a match that lasted 2 hours and 30 minutes.
The Indian kept the sparse crowd on the edge for a while in the first set but then failed to recover from a crucial break at 5-5. Having enjoyed a career-best season in 2018 where he made his ATP World Tour debut, much was expected from the world No 107 but he fell flat against Mmoh.
The American began aggressively as he broke Prajnesh in the first game thanks to the Indian’s shaky serves that gave Mmoh 2-0 lead. Knowing each other’s game was the undoing for Prajnesh—the two train at the same academy, the Alexander Waske Tennis University in Germany.
The set went either way as the two kept pushing each other and when Prajnesh went 5-4 up, Mmoh pulled all the best shots from his array and stayed in the set by taking the 10th game at love.
At 5-5 Prajnesh gave a break point with a long shot and smashed the ball in the net after the long rally and followed up with another wide shot to send Mmoh into celebratory mood.
The first break of the second set came in the third game as the Indian left-hander sent the ball into the net.
This was after he gave away triple break points when Mmoh sent a cracking winner past him at the service line. Serving to stay in the match, Prajnesh committed a double fault and surrendered match point which Mmoh converted when the Indian sent his forehand long.
DAY 1: RESULTS
Singles: First Round:
- 7-Jaume Munar (Esp) bt Radu Albot (Mda) 6-2, 7-6 (7-4); Steve Darcis (Bel) bt 6-Roberto Carballes Baena (Esp) 6-3, 6-4; Michael Mmoh (US) bt wc-Prajnesh Gunneswaran (Ind) 7-5, 6-3; Evgeny Donskoy (Rus) bt 8-Pablo Andujar (Esp) 6-3, 5-7, 7-6 (8-6); Ernests Gulbis (Lat) vs. Pedro Sousa (Por) 6-4, 4-6, 6-4.
- Doubles: First round: Kevin Krawietz (Ger) and Andreas Mies (Ger) bt Hubert Hurkacz (Pol) and Benoit Paire (Fra) 7-5, 6-3; 4-Gerard Granollers (Esp) and Marcel Granollers (Esp) bt Nicholas Monroe (US) and Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan (Ind) 6-4, 6-4.