Unforced errors pulled Prajnesh Gunneswaran down against Borna Gojo, considered a weak link in the rival line-up, as India trail 0-1 against top-seed Croatia in the Davis Cup Qualifiers in Zagreb on Friday.
India’s strategy to target Gojo fell flat with the young Croat trumphing the higher-ranked Prajnesh 3-6, 6-4, 6-2 in one hour and 57 minutes. Gojo, ranked 277th, had not won a singles match in Davis Cup earlier and Indians were hoping that the trend will continue.
Gojo peppered returns on Prajnesh’s backhand side and served big. Most importantly, he handled pressure better than the Indian. Ramkumar Ramanathan will now take on world No 37 Marin Cilic in a bid to bring India back in the tie.
Prajnesh had a break chance in the very first game of the match but Gojo saved that with an ace. Gojo served big and hit consistently on the backhand of the Indian, who had two more chances in the fifth game to break the serve of his rival but could convert none.
Gojo, though, kept providing the openings and Prajnesh finally drew the first blood when the Croat hit a forehand long in the seventh game. Some good defending by Prajnesh meant that long rallies were in play and that worked in the Indian’s favour. Gojo’s unforced errors hurt him as one such forehand error handed Prjanesh the opening set after 39 minutes.
Prajnesh began to play aggressive from the beginning of the second set, going for his shots and in the process faced six break points in the first game, which lasted 11 minutes.
The left-hander saved five but Gojo found a backhand volley winner after charging to the net to nose ahead. Prajnesh had chances to get the break back but squandered them. One reason for that was that Gojo grew in confidence and controlled his errors.
A major change in Gojo’s game was that he was now coming to the net very often, burying easy volleys. His big serve aided him in doing that. Prajnesh had to hit deep returns to negate it but Gojo did not let him do that and opened up a comfortable 5-3 lead and served out the set with ease with an overhead volley winner.
A backhand error put Prajnesh down by two break chances in the third game which he saved but another backhand flew over the baseline to give Gojo yet another chance, which he converted to create ripples in the Indian camp.
A fired up Gojo came out serving all guns blazing to consolidate the break, making it 3-1. Prajnesh was feeling the heat now and his backhand melted as unforced errors put him down 1-4 in the decider. The comeback from Prajnesh did not happen and Gojo walked out of the court jumping with joy.