KPIT MSLTA Challenger: All eyes on Prajnesh Gunneswaran

In the absence of Yuki Bhambri, the Indian challenge will comprise Ramkumar Ramanathan, Prajnesh Gunneswaran, Saketh Myneni and Sumit Nagal. Four players -- Sasi Kumar Mukund, Manish Sureshkumar, Arjun Kadhe and Aryan Goveas -- are the wild card entries in the main draw.

Prajnesh Gunneswaran clinched the $150,000 ATP Challenger Tour Bengaluru Open earlier this week.   -  V. SREENIVASA MURTHY

Tennis fans are celebrating Prajnesh Gunneswaran’s title win at the $ 150,000 ATP Challenger Tour Bengaluru Open 2018 on Saturday. He defeated Saketh Myneni in straight sets and has joined a small group of potential winners in the fifth edition of the $ 50,000 KPIT MSLTA Challenger starting on Monday.

The relevance of promoting more Challenger category competitions in India has often been highlighted by Leander Paes, Rohan Bopanna and a host of Indian tennis professionals. Soon after the 29-year-old Gunneswaran’s second Challenger title this year, Bopanna took to Twitter, stating: “Another great example having a @ATPChallenger in India which has helped Indian players benefiting from it. Great effort by @PriyankKharge @Yajaman_Sunil & the entire team.We need more international tournaments in India and hopefully every State has minimum one.’’

Gunneswaran earned 125 ATP points and he is predicted to be ranked 110 when the weekly rankings by the ATP release on Monday. A win here  will give him 80 points and further improve his chances of getting a direct entry into the Australian Open in January. “There is an outside chance,’’ Gunneswarn told Sportstar at the team hotel here on Sunday.

Two years ago, Gunneswaran lost to Frenchman Sadio Doumbia in the title match here and has only improved since; he has also been a member of the Indian Davis Cup squad. This year, he has won 29 matches on hard courts and two titles.

Ramkumar Ramanathan will be hoping to make the most of the opportunity.   -  V. Sreenivasa Murthy

 

In the absence of Yuki Bhambri, who won titles here in 2015 and 2017, the Indian challenge will be led by the No. 2 seed Ramkumar Ramanathan, No. 4 seed Gunneswaran, Saketh Myneni (who was the runner-up in the Bengaluru Open) and Sumit Nagal. The other Indians in the main draw are the four wild card beneficiaries--Sasi Kumar Mukund, Manish Sureshkumar, Arjun Kadhe and Aryan Goveas.

On Sunday afternoon there was big interest in the second round qualifying centre court match between Sriram Balaji and Germany’s Benjamin Hassan.

Both appeared like battering rams, focusing on their big first serve; the first set went neck and neck and till the last point of the tie-breaker, but the Indian’s game fell apart in the second. Even though he made up winning a a handful games, the German held sway winning the match in straight sets. Another Indian, Vijay Sundar Prashanth went down tamely to Israel’s Ben Patael.

Four players from the third round qualifying matches, to be played on Monday, will complete the draw of 32. But the first day of the tournament proper will feature two Indians--Goveas and Sureshkumar. While Goveas will play Canadian Brayden Schnur, Sureshkumar will take on Elias Ymer.

Results (qualifying singles, 2nd round)

Danylo  Kalenichenko (Ukr) bt Khumoun  Sultanov (Uzb) 5-7, 7-6 (3), 6-4; Fransesco Vilardo (Ita) bt Sanjar Fayziev (Uzb) 2-6, 7-6 (5), 7-5; Ben Patael (Isr)  bt Vijay Sundar Prashanth (Ind) 6-0, 6-3; Lucas Gerch (Ger) bt Miliaan  Niesten (Ned)  3-6,6-4, 6-4; Benjamin Hassan (Ger) bt Sriram Balaji (Ind)  7-6 (7), 6-3; Mick Lescure (Fra) b Rio Noguchi (Jpn) 6-3,6-2; Sebastian Fanselow (Ger) bt Chien-Hsun Lo (Taipei) 6-3,6-3; Viktor Durasovic (Nor) bt Youssef Hossam (Egy) 4-6, 7-6 (7), 6-4.