Prajnesh: 'Beating Shapovalov was a huge boost for me'

Remarkably, this is Prajnesh's first main draw appearance in an ATP World Tour event.

File image of Prajnesh Gunneswaran   -  V. Sreenivasa Murthy

Twenty-eighth May 2018 was one of the toughest days in Prajnesh Gunneswaran's career. The Indian had a chance to make his Grand Slam debut at the coveted French Open when he, as a 'lucky loser', was to face Bernard Tomic in the first round.

However, Prajnesh was forced to let go of the opportunity as he had already left Paris to play a Challenger in Italy. 

Prajnesh decided to take it on the chin and hasn't looked back since. He has soared to a career-best ranking of 169, and on Tuesday, made it to the main draw of an ATP World Tour event for the first time in the Stuttgart Open.

That's not all. Making the most of his main draw appearance, Prajnesh also scripted one of the biggest wins of his career on Wednesday. The 28-year-old defeated next-gen star and sixth seed Denis Shapovalov 7-6, 2-6, 6-3 to advance to the second round.

“Shapovalov wasn't at his best. He expectedly had a lot of pressure on him, given that he was playing a lower-ranked player and that he hasn't played on grass for a year. I feel like I had the advantage going into the match because I'd already played two matches on grass. The first set was close and he stepped up his game in the second set, but that's how it goes. I'm happy to have got through it,” an elated Prajnesh told Sportstar from Stuttgart.

If Prajnesh manages to get past Guido Pella in the second round, he will face none other than the iconic Roger Federer. “I honestly haven't thought that far ahead, I'm taking it one day at a time. I'm really happy but I've still got a match tomorrow. I need to prepare for that, I can't just live in the moment,” he quipped.

Asked if he has had a hit with Federer, the southpaw said he has seen the Swiss around but hasn't had a chance to rally with him yet.  

Talking about how much the win meant to him, especially after the disappointing turn of events in Paris, he asserted, “I wasn't happy with what happened but it is what it is. I've moved on. This win is not a relief for me, but it's more of a huge boost. It allows me to understand that I can be at this level.”