Prajnesh Gunneswaran showed good fight on his Grand Slam debut but went down 6-7(7), 3-6, 3-6 to American Frances Tiafoe in the first round of the Australian Open on Monday, ending India’s challenge in singles draw.
The Indian, who had qualified for the main draw after winning three matches on the trot in the qualifiers, fell short on the big points in the match that lasted an hour and 52 minutes. He had a set point in the first set tiebreak and the first break in the second set, but couldn’t press advantage against the world No 39 from America.
Prajnesh, ranked 109 in the world, was let down by his serve, winning only 55% on his second serve, even as he was almost neck-to-neck on winners and errors ration with his opponent.
The first set was fought intensely with not a single break point on offer, before the 20-year-old pounced in the tiebreak to take the lead. Points were shot and Tiafoe’s superior winner and net-points count made all the difference.
A set down, the 29-year-old Indian fought back remarkably to take the early break in the second set, but he couldn’t consolidate and was broken right back. This was followed by another break as he capitulated in the second set in just over 30 minutes, after committing costly errors.
The start of the third set called for a change in tactics but Prajnesh kept hitting flat and was broken early. To his credit, he played a clean game and got the break back to put it back on serve. But unforced errors at crucial points meant he was facing match points on his serve, which the American converted to set a second-round meeting with fifth seed Kevin Anderson.