Aggressive Prajnesh eyes top 50 finish

India’s No 1 singles player Prajnesh Gunneswaran has also tweaked his training regime to get fitter for five-setters.

Currently ranked 104, Prajnesh’s immediate goal is to close in further and work towards a top 50 finish.   -  V Sreenivasa Murthy

You feel special when you walk into a party to hear people murmur, “That guy is the No 1 singles player in India now.” Prajnesh Gunneswaran heard that from every table at the event, Celebrate Tennis, here on Sunday.

The southpaw had started the year as World No 243 in singles. But the numbers soon started rolling backwards; courtesy, two Challenger titles and runner-up finishes, Davis Cup heroics and an Asian Games bronze medal that pushed his fortune wheel towards the big league.

Currently ranked 104, Prajnesh’s immediate goal is to close in further and work towards a top 50 finish.

READ| Prajnesh’s journey: From stress fractures to India number one

“If I do really well, there is a chance to be in the 50 in the world but I am more interested to improve and be able to compete at the tour level. As long as I am inside 100, then I have done a decent job. But the goal would be to go around 50. Being No 1 in India is very special. I have given myself a good platform to go forward,” said Prajnesh on the sidelines of the function that felicitated past, present and future tennis stars from the state.

The top position in India will not guarantee a direct Grand Slam entry at the moment. He is likely to mix and match Challenger events with other tournaments to escalate his case in the circuit.

This year, he narrowly missed the French Open and Australian Open cut. Prajnesh had lost the third round of qualifiers on clay. As he sat on a flight to Italy to participate in Euro 64,000 Challenger, a spot opened up in Paris following Nick Kyrgios’ withdrawal.

The loss in Pune Challenger final denied him a ticket to Melbourne. 

Prepping for five-setters

Prajnesh doesn’t mind the close misses as he hadn’t seen them coming. His focus has been on his training regime. A career-threatening knee injury had stunted his growth in the initial years but now, the champion is keen to go for five sets.

“I am doing more work than I used to. More endurance tests. I need to start preparing to be able to play five sets. It could be a possibility soon and it is something I have to regularly do.

“I also didn’t expect to have such a good last two months, so I am not going to nitpick and say if I had won that, I would have been in Australia. If I can get myself inside 100, I will start to play more tournaments,” he added.

Talking about shouldering more responsibilities (being No 1) in crucial tournaments such as the Davis Cup, he stressed how numbers are irrelevant in the face of results.

“When you are on the court, it doesn’t really matter if the guy is No 1 or No 2 from the country. All that matters is pressure and what you got to do on that day. Get your tactics ready and be ready to right,” said Prajnesh, who has won a wild-card entry to ATP 250 Tata Open starting next week.

“It is another tournament to put your practice into a match and see if it works. I have been an aggressive player (this season) and I will continue to do all of that.”