The year’s getting better and better for Prajnesh Gunneswaran. He breached the top-200 ranking in April. He won his first ATP Challenger (An-Ning) title in May. He became the top-ranked Indian player on Friday. A day later, he hammered his senior compatriot, Saketh Myneni, 6-2, 6-2 to clinch the Bengaluru Open title.
The victory increases Prajnesh’s chance of playing the Australian Open. If he wins the Pune Challenger next week, he might even enter the main draw.
He was, however, reticent about his chances of playing in Melbourne. “I know the numbers and there is possibility if I win, I will be 104 [in the rankings], But it’s a long shot. I’ll take it one match at a time. Maybe it will be in my mind,” he said.
Like he did against Brayden Schnur in the semi-final, Prajnesh started well. He attacked Saketh’s serve in the first game and got an early break.
Saketh admitted on Friday that he was rusty and needed to cut down his errors to beat Prajnesh. He didn’t. On several occasions during Saketh’s serve, the players were tied at 30-30 and Prajnesh, most often, won the next point, putting the former under pressure.
The power and solidity of Prajnesh’s game, Saketh arguably didn’t witness before in the tournament. On Friday, for instance, Saketh was up 5-0 in the decider against Kazakhstan’s Aleksandr Nedovyesov. But he made a flurry of errors to let Nodovyesov get back into the match at 4-5. Then, the Kazakh conceded another break, and ultimately, the match to Saketh.
Saketh didn’t get such allowances against Prajnesh. “He didn’t let me crawl back into the match,” he said.
Prajnesh, for the second straight match in the tournament, went without facing a break point. Twice each in the two sets Prajnesh broke Saketh. He didn’t hit an awful lot of winners but forced Saketh to err.
Saketh, less agile than he used to be, failed to reach Prajnesh’s powerful returns on many occasions. He also couldn’t match up to the latter’s top-spin laden groundstrokes.
Saketh’s characteristic run-ins to the net and the delectable volleys were rare on Saturday. Rather, the sheer pace of Prajnesh’s shots disallowed him from venturing into the net.
“He plays heavy, serves big and is a leftie. He’s playing with much more confidence and is getting more physical,” Saketh said of his younger compatriot.
Saketh will join Prajnesh in the main draw of the Pune Challenger, beginning on Monday.
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