It was the biggest win of Prajnesh Gunneswaran’s career and it came after a third-set slugfest, which made it even sweeter for the 29-year-old India No 1 because it proved to him that he belongs at this level.

Qualifier Prajnesh beat World No. 18 Nikoloz Basilashvili 6-4, 6(6)-7, 7-6(4) in two hours 32 minutes to reach the third round of the ATP Masters 1000 tournament at Indian Wells early on Sunday morning. It was his first win over a Top-20 player and only his third ATP main draw win since his debut last June, when he had stunned then world number 23 Denis Shapovalov after qualifying for the main draw at the Stuttgart ATP 250.

“It is definitely a big deal, it’s huge for me [because] I proved to myself that I can stay at this level constantly,” Prajnesh told after his win at Indian Wells. He had overcome flamboyant Frenchman Benoit Paire in the first round and will face big-serving world No 89 Croatia’s Ivo Karlovic next.

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The left-hander took the first set with a solitary break in just over half an hour, but was pushed by the Georgian to the brink in the last two, with the tiebreaks lasting around an hour each. The world No 97 rued not finishing the match in straight sets.

“I am really happy I won especially [given] the way the match went. In the second set, I was extremely close to getting the break and maybe being close to winning the match. From there, even having chances in the tiebreak and out of nowhere when he just stepped up and played a few good points. He took the tiebreak and the match was level all of a sudden,” he said.

“It wasn’t easy as I had to find a way to get back my composure and stay tough mentally to take the third set and the match which was a big deal for me.”

But his performance in the decider proved to be a big boost as the fighting win gave him the confidence that he can keep up the level needed in top-flight tennis.

“I had to keep the same quality, level and intensity in the third set and that is extremely difficult to do. I am happy I could. I think this is one of my best matches mentally and I’m showing myself that I can be at this level.”

The 29-year-old has already put together his best run on the ATP Tour so far and is set to break into the Top 80 in the next rankings, better than his career best of 94. In the last one year, he won his first ATP Challenger title, qualified for an ATP Tour match and made his Grand Slam debut at the Australian Open as a qualifier.