India No 1 Prajnesh Gunneswaran went down to fifth seed Daniil Medvedev from Russia 4-6, 1-6, 2-6 in an hour and 25 minutes in the first round of the US Open on Monday night.
The world No 88 played a solid first set but was unable to sustain the same level in what was his debut at Flushing Meadows.
The most telling number from the match was the sheer volume of unforced errors. Both players had the same number of winners at 20 but the Indian made 36 errors to his opponent’s 20 as he went for a high risk high reward play and ended up missing his shots.
Prajnesh was broken in the very first game by an aggressive Medvedev, who has won 31 matches on hard court this season, despite not doing much wrong on serve. The recently-crowned Cincinnati champion then held to take a 2-0 early lead.
But in what was the highlight of the match for the Indian, he stormed back to win eight straight points. With his big strokes, the left-hander broke Medvedev to love and then held serve to put the first set back on serve. It was the only break the Indian got through the match.
A after that brief stutter Medvedev wrested control of the match back breaking to love and then staving off a break point in the next game. He had a tiff with the umpire over the time warning as well.
Meanwhile, the Indian didn’t give in and kept going toe-to-toe, testing the Russian’s defence. But a few loose points cost him the set, despite impressive holds from thereon.
In the afternoon heat, Prajnesh needed a trainer during the first set as well, which at 35 minutes was the most competitive. Thereafter, his level dipped possibly due to the heat and the leg injury which had him grimacing after a hard slide in the second set.
The Russian broke Prajnesh to start the second set, just as he did in the first. It quickly became a double break and he managed to win just the one service game in the set as Medvedev pressed his advantage.
The world No 5 – who reached the finals of Washington Open, Rogers Cup and Cincinatti in three straight weeks – needed a medical timeout before the third set. But he started the third with a break as well and raced to a lead.
Prajnesh got on the board at 3-1 with his third ace of the match but had eight double faults and a first serve percent of only 54.
Serving to stay in the match, he gave up triple match point and missed an overhead at the net to end the match.