Prajnesh Gunneswaran had squandered his chances in the final qualifying round of the French Open, but when luck came knocking at his door, he was on the verge of boarding a flight to Italy!

"I can’t play the French Open. The rules prevent me from playing. I'm already in the Vicenza draw. So, no luck," said Prajnesh, as his flight was about to take off from Paris.

"I had to decide on Friday 9 p.m., one way or the other. I decided to go to Italy. So, that was it," clarified Prajnesh, who could not take the 'lucky loser' spot at the French Open.

"I was waiting on Friday as late as possible and hoping someone might pull out. Since I was 4 out on Friday, I said okay, I wont’ get in. I took a call to say, "I am going". So, I was not in the running for lucky loser slots after that," he added.
The disappointment of skipping a Grand Slam main draw apart, it was the biggest pay cheque in his professional career for Prajnesh.

Quite understandably, the 28-year-old from Chennai has no time to celebrate. In contrast, Prajnesh felt that he had squandered chances to make the main draw in Paris.

"I have been playing well on clay. I always had the game to do well on it. Against (Elias) Ymer, I definitely had a lot of chances. I went in knowing I could definitely win. I have to learn from the mistakes. It is a hard lesson, but that is how it goes," said Prajnesh, who had lost 6-3, 6-4 to the 122nd ranked Elias Ymer of Sweden in the final qualifying round.

"I am glad that I got as far as I did and it shows what I am capable of. I just need to keep working, improving and staying tough. I will get more chances to enter the draws and possibly progress in the main draw as well," he added.

Renewed belief and support system

Having won his maiden Challenger title, the $150,000 event in Anning, China, which had fetched him $21,600 before the French Open, Prajnesh had renewed belief in his game.

"Clay is possibly the most physically demanding surface and I am getting better at sustaining the needed intensity," analysed Prajnesh, who had his father SG Prabhakharan watching him in Paris.

"My dad has always been there to give me guidance and push me to be more ambitious. I am happy that the first time I won matches in a Grand Slam, he was there to see it. I have been dong well and he may have felt like I might make a break through and he can help me make that push," observed Prajnesh, who had lost in the first qualifying round at the US Open last year and the Australian Open this year.

Prajnesh also had his long-time coach Bastian Suwanprateep from the Waske Tennis University to guide him in Paris. "He has been working with me since I left college to turn pro. It was very helpful to have him in Paris," added Prajnesh.