Maharashtra Open: Prajnesh scales first hurdle, Paes advances in doubles

India's top-ranked singles player Prajnesh Gunneswaran stormed into the second round of the Maharashtra Open with a straight sets win over Yannick Maden.

Prajnesh Gunneswaran

Prajnesh Gunneswaran exults after his Maharashtra Open opening round win over Yannick Maden on Tuesday.   -  R. Ragu

Prajnesh Gunneswaran showed great resolve in the tiebreakers to win his first round match 7-6(4), 7-6(5) against Germany’s Yannick Maden at the Tata Open Maharashtra in Balewadi Stadium on Tuesday. He is the first Indian to advance to the next round in the men's singles.

Much like Sumit Nagal and Ramkumar Ramanathan, both of whom crashed out on Monday, local lad Arjun Kadhe also lost his first round match to Jiri Vesely of Czech Republic 6-2, 6-4. Sasi Kumar Mukund will face Burnie Open winner Taro Daniel in a first-round clash on Wednesday.

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- Paes/Ebden through -

Leander Paes and Matthew Ebden showed good court presence to oust second-seeded Divij Sharan and partner Artem Sitak 6-2, 7-6(5) to reach the second round. Divij Sharan won the 2019 title alongside Rohan Bopanna.


After a fairly one-sided first set where Matthew Ebden dictated play with swift service returns, Divij and Artem put up a stiffer resistance in the second set. Going into the tiebreaker, it was on Paes' serve that the wildcards registered the win. The Indo-Australian pair were quite animated in celebrating each point and were aided by the whistles and loud cheers from the stands.

Leander Paes and Matthew Ebden

Leander Paes and Matthew Ebden celebrate their first round win on Tuesday.   -  R. Ragu

What they said

Leander Paes: "Maddy and I went out last night and did a little extra practice on our serve and our returns, and that kind of held us in good stead because I thought we served really good today from the first game, where we thought we were under the pressure... under a breakpoint. We managed to win that one, and then second point we had a deuce point, and we managed to win that one. Then the momentum just went in our favour, The best part is how natural it feels. It was our first match and especially with Maddy it feels so natural. Especially under pressure, we do all the right things."

Matthew Ebden: "Yeah, it feels similar. I have confidence in 'the champ'. I will keep calling him 'the champ'. I've been a champ too at times, under pressure. We understand how to remain calm and play tennis under pressure and we saved a lot of breakpoints and some really key points. We will keep doing that as long as we can and have fun with it."

 

 

- Prajnesh makes strong start -

With a weaker field, this is the best opportunity for India’s No. 1 player Prajnesh to earn some crucial ATP points and possibly a title victory. After all, he boasts of a win over top seed Benoit Paire in the previous clash between the two, in the first round clash at Indian Wells. 

On Tuesday, Prajnesh gave a good account of himself with solid serves, strong forehand returns and great composure during the tiebreaks.

After three comfortable service games, Prajnesh broke Yannick Maden to love for a 5-3 lead in the first set. But he was broken the very next game owing to an errant display. Down 15-40, he saved one breakpoint with a weak serve, but double faulted the next to concede the break.

At 5-5, Prajnesh was staring at another breakpoint, but salvaged with some help from Maden and then managed to hold serve with an ace. Maden, serving much better than Prajnesh at this time, took the first set to the tiebreaker and raced to a 3-0 lead. It was here that Prajnesh began his revival.

Arjun Kadhe

Earlier in the day, local lad Arjun Kadhe lost to Czech Republic's Jiri Vesely.   -  R. Ragu

 

He forced a backhand error with a deep serve and then followed it up with an ace. Two forehand errors from Maden followed as Prajnesh nudged ahead to a 4-3 lead. An ace and a service winner later, Prajnesh went for a drop on his first set point. It went too low and the spectators responded with a collective gasp. But Maden sent one long to hand the set to a deserving Prajnesh.

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With both the players doing well on their serves, another tiebreaker beckoned. At 2-2, the two were involved in the longest rally of the match which ended in Prajnesh’s favour after Maden netted a backhand slice. Once he took the lead, Prajnesh dished out forehand winner and a service winner to complete the win. 

“For the first time in a while, I was able to really dictate points. I held up quite well with my wrist and elbow. Served well, used my forehand well. It was much closer to my regular style. I am happy  I played a good match,” he said. 

“I should have held serve at 5-3, it was my first bad game. Two double faults. The first was okay, but the second was bad. Shouldn’t have happened.

“He went up 3-0 in the tiebreak, I played one or two not so great points. But after that I was good. Once I got to three, I got the momentum back. I would say I played the two tie breaks very well. Apart from the first three points [first tiebreak], I played the big points well,” he said. 

Earlier in the day, James Duckworth of Australia defeated Germany's Peter Gojowczyk 7-6, 6-4. The German later pulled out of the doubles draw citing a hip injury, paving the way for  India’s Sumit Nagal and Egor Gerasimov (Belarus) to enter the doubles draw. The duo will face the all-Indian team of Ramkumar Ramanathan and Purav Raja in the first round. 

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