Prajnesh Gunneswaran’s 6-2, 6-2 victory over Saketh Myneni in the final of the $150,000 Bengaluru Open on Saturday was not as clinical a win as the scoreline suggests, but the magnitude of it was not lost on him.
The title in Bengaluru is his second $150,000 Challenger crown this year and comes on the back of a great season which has seen him earn a tie-clinching victory in the Davis Cup against China, a win over Canadian star Denis Shapovalov on grass and repeated forays into the main draws of ATP 250 events.
The 125 ranking points is set to propel the 29-year old to a spot just outside the world’s top 100 from his current ranking of 144. Another good tournament at the $50,000 Challenger next week in Pune will put
him in contention for a maiden main draw appearance at the 2019 Australian Open.
“It has been a great run,” an elated Prajnesh said after the victory. “I didn’t expect to do this well at the beginning of the year. I knew I had the potential to do well. But it all happened too quickly. All the work I put in is paying off. One more tournament in Pune and I hope I finish it as good as this one.”
Prajnesh looks at fresh targets after achieving career-best ranking
On the day, Prajnesh did what was required of him. Myneni is a tactile player, who lives for the feel of the ball. Prajnesh ensured he would experience none of it. He played to a set plan; the considerable top-spin he generated denied Myneni the pace he usually likes, and the predominantly cross-court shots took the ball away from his strike-zone. A break each in the first and seventh games was enough to seal the first set.
Just as in the first, he broke early in the second set too. Myneni changed tack, looked to take the ball early and tried stepping into the court more often. Prajnesh responded by mixing things up and not allowing his opponent play to a set pattern.
The hold to 5-1 best exemplified this. Prajnesh drilled three precise body serves denying Myneni a full swing at the ball. When the latter tried to shift position, an immaculately placed ace which wrong-footed Myneni was the answer.
“I knew it was going to be tough,” said Myneni. “He plays heavy, he is a lefty and serves big. You have to neutralise that. It is also difficult to play against someone who doesn't give away free points. Credit to him for the fantastic week. A lot of positives for me to take as well."