KPIT-MSLTA Challenger: Gunneswaran moves into semis

Prajnesh Gunneswaran secured the biggest win of his career by defeating Saketh Myneni 6-7 (5-7), 6-2, 6-0 to reach the semifinals at the KPIT-MSLTA Challenger in Pune.

Prajnesh Gunneswaran will face No. 2 seed Duckhee Lee in the semifinals.   -  Special Arrangement

Left hander Prajnesh Gunneswaran showed fine court craft and stamina to score the biggest win of his chequered career against India Davis Cupper and the No. 3 seed Saket Myneni in the quarterfinals of the $ 50,000 KPIT-MSLTA Challenger at the Balewadi Sports Complex here on Thursday. He won 6-7 (5-7), 6-2, 6-0.

Gunneswaran, who will turn 27 on November 12, will take on Korea’s No. 2 seed Duckhee Lee in the semifinals on Friday.

“I played him a few weeks ago in Bangkok and I beat him (6-4, 6-0). That was a different court, different conditions and a different day. I hope I play the same way and see if I can come out on top,” Gunneswaran said.

Playing his 13th tournament this year, Chennai’s Gunneswaran believes his injury woes are over for the time being. Injury to both knees had forced him for long period of rehabilitation and recovery in the last five years and he had even contemplated to bring an end to his playing days.

On an eventful day when Gunneswaran scalped a superior opponent in Myneni, Frenchman Sadio Doumbia eliminated the Russian top seed Evgeny Donskoy in three sets as well. In the first quarterfinal played at the Centre Court, Lee outplayed Kazakh Popko in straight sets.

Gunneswaran has been in the pro-circuit since 2006 and, he had played 222 singles matches before taking on Myneni. The two had played once before.

“I played him a long time ago; maybe ten years ago, when I was 16 and he was 18. So the gap has been long,” said the 6.2 ft tall southpaw.

Delighted at his win and securing a place in the last four, Gunneswaran said: “I had my chances in the first set. I was up a break; he played one loose game. I should have just held my nerve, but I made too many unforced errors. In the second set, I held my serves and I was waiting for that one chance to break and I took it. With two breaks I managed to take the second set. I thought he would come out firing in the third set, but I played the first couple of games well and he lost a little bit of rhythm and I made it tougher for him.”

Myneni was not in peak condition on the fitness count and Gunneswaran was sympathetic towards his opponent’s misfortune.

“Since his shoulder was not in great condition, it makes it worse when losing. It gets into your head and makes you think that things are really going worse. I think that did not help him. I wish we were in different quarters, but I feel happy that I am there to keep the Indian flag flying high.”

'Happy'

Gunneswaran is currently ranked 346 in the ATP list, and it has to be seen where the 29 points he is assured of will take him. "It’s the first time I am in the Challenger semis. I have won a couple of ITF Futures. I am really happy, but to be honest I would like to just keep doing this all the time. I feel that I can be at this level, but I don’t want to be carried away. Just because I will get 29 ATP points here (as of now) and I don’t want to put myself under too much under pressure. I would like to use the right tactics and play it my way. And the results should come behind it.’’

Results: Men’s Singles (quarterfinals)

Sadio Doumbia (France) bt 1-Evgeny Donskoy Russia) 3-6, 6-4, 6-4,

8-Prajnesh Gunneswaran (India) by 3-Saket Myneni (India) 6-7 (5-7), 6-2, 6-0,

2-Duckhee Lee (Korea) bt 7-Dmitri Popko (Kazakhstan) 6-3,6-4,

Ikola Milojevic (Serbia) bt Adrian Menendez-Maceiras 6-4, 7-6 (7-3).