Prajnesh Gunneswaran: ‘This is just the beginning’

The Indian is elated at having qualified for the main draw of the Australian Open.

Prajnesh Gunneswaran is the third Indian among men to enter the main draw of a Grand Slam in the last five years.   -  Getty Images

After a splendid 2018, when he came close to making the main draw of a Major, Prajnesh Gunneswaran has finally achieved his dream. He defeated Yosuke Watanuki 6-7 (5), 6-4, 6-4 in the third and final round of qualifying to enter the Australian Open main draw. The Indian will now face American Frances Tiafoe, the World No. 39, in the first round.

The Chennai lad, ranked 112 in the world, came close last year where he had a chance to make his Grand Slam debut at the French Open as a lucky loser. But he had left the venue and had headed to Italy to play another tournament, thereby forfeiting the chance of making his debut in Paris.

‘Blessed’

But this time, the 29-year-old did not need any such luck, as he got the job done on merit, overcoming the Japanese in a tough match in two hours and 10 minutes. Speaking to Sportstar from Melbourne, Prajnesh said, “I am very blessed to pursue my dream of playing tennis and obviously it is a big thing but this is just the beginning. There was a lot of pressure obviously after coming close last year, but I knew I was good enough to be here.”

The left-hander had straight-sets victory in his first two rounds of qualifying, beating Viktor Galović (6-4, 6-4) and Enrique López Pérez (6-3, 6-3).

‘Playing my best tennis’

Looking back at the week so far, Prajnesh said, “The first match was not great it but the second one I felt I played really well. Again, today, it was so-so but I was mentally tough and fought hard. I was ahead in the first set and lost it but stayed strong getting the break early in the second and third set and kept pushing him. I am playing my best tennis even though these were not my best matches.”

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Currently the highest-ranked Indian, Prajnesh had an outside chance of making the cut for the main draw had he won the Pune Challenger last year. As it turned out, he had lost in the final to Elias Ymer.

“After the Pune event, I had a chance to play in the Australian Open playoff tournament but I decided against so that I could rest and have a good preparation not just for this tournament but for the whole of 2019. I was confident in myself and sometimes you need to grind it out,” he added.

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