Prajnesh Gunneswaran aims top-50 ahead of French Open debut

Prajnesh Gunneswaran has come a long way since missing the 'lucky loser' spot at French Open last year.

Prajnesh Gunneswaran reached a career-high ranking of 75 in April this year.   -  Reuters

From walking out on a 'lucky loser' spot at the French Open last year, to walking into a Grand Slam for the first time, by the merit of his world rank of 86, Prajnesh Gunneswaran has come a long way.

After winning the singles bronze in the Asian Games last year (which saw him miss the US Open) Prajnesh did well to qualify for the Australian Open in January this year. But it is special to be eligible for a Grand Slam, which guarantees about $50,000 as prize money for a first round entrant.

On the eve of the French Open in Paris, where he will meet 92nd-ranked Marco Dellien of Bolivia in a first round clash on Court No.13, the Chennai southpaw Prajnesh stressed that nothing had happened overnight.

"I am quite happy with the progress I have made so far, both in terms of my rank and the standard of my tennis. I made a conscious effort to try and switch to more Challengers so that I could adjust to that level. It took some time, but I eventually started to get the results that I had wanted. It didn’t happen overnight", said Prajnesh, who was ranked a career-best 75 recently.

Prajnesh is quick to acknowledge the important role played by the Alexander Waske Tennis-University in helping him become a highly competitive player.

"I have had support from Waske Tennis University right from the start. I didn’t travel with a coach from them all the time, but I did so, often. That was my constant training base.

"I also did some weeks with Balachandran Manikkath towards the end of last year. We had some good results", observed Prajnesh as he looked back with satisfaction, especially at winning the Challenger in Bengaluru and following that up with a final in Pune.

READ | Prajnesh's rise to career-best 75 augurs well for Indian tennis

What was most impressive about Prajnesh was his ability to beat players in the top-20 in the big events.

"I think the most important factor that got me to win matches against the higher-ranked players was learning to sustain the level I had, for more than just one or a set and a half. I learnt to play at a very high tempo mentally, and tennis standard wise. That made the difference", he remarked.

A possible second round meeting with Greek sensation and world no.6 Stefanos Tsitsipas may be an added motivation for the 29-year-old Prajnesh, but he knows that he has already given himself a great chance to break into the top-50.

"The Top-50 is definitely achievable since I have put myself in a position to compete in the bigger tournaments which in turn means that I play for bigger points. I am more interested in continuing to improve my game as that is what would give me a chance to succeed consistently at this level", opined Prajnesh.

READ | Vijay Amritraj: I think Prajnesh is poised to be in top-50

Things are going well for Prajnesh on the personal front, too. He has been engaged to Sudarshana Pai, a designer from National Institute of Fashion Technology.

"I am very happy that my personal life is also going as planned and it is definitely a big milestone. I am very happy with where I am at this point in my life", said Prajnesh, who is likely to have his
wedding at the end of the tennis season.

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