Prajnesh's rise to career-best 75 augurs well for Indian tennis

Prajnesh Gunneswaran's career-best ranking of 75 makes him the sixth-best ranked Indian tennis player in the Open era.

Prajnesh Gunneswaran has reached a career-best rank of No.75. (file photo)   -  K. V. Srinivasan

It has been a dream run, for nearly a year, and the country’s No.1 tennis player, Prajnesh Gunneswaran, is happy to ride the tide.

Even though he failed to defend the title in the $162,480 Challenger in Anning, China, on Sunday, Prajnesh has been able to reach a career-best rank of No. 75. It puts him as the sixth-best ranked Indian tennis player in the Open era.

It may be mentioned that Ramanathan Krishnan, who twice reached the Wimbledon semifinals, was unofficially ranked No. 3 in the world, before the rankings came into existence.

Leander Paes (73) and Anand Amritraj (74) are at striking distance, even though Prajnesh, who withdrew this week from the Nanchang Challenger may have to wait for some time to improve further.

Vijay Amritraj (18), Ramesh Krishnan (23) and Somdev Devvarman (62) are the top-three-ranked Indian players in the Open era.

Due to the change of dates, the 125 points from last year’s Anning Challenger would drop next week, and that will be quite a lot from his overall collection of 748 ATP points. It may just about help Prajnesh stay in the top-100.

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To come back to the present, it has indeed been phenomenal that the 29-year-old Prajnesh, ranked 266 around the same time last year, has made such an incredible journey up the slippery ladder on the ATP computer.

Prajnesh had won a Futures title in Chandigarh apart from the two Challengers in Anning and Bengaluru in the 12-month period. It shows his impressive consistency in so many other tournaments, including his first qualification into the Grand Slam at the Australian Open, and the big ATP events, in Indian Wells and Miami.

Yuki Bhambri is the only other Indian player to have reached up to No. 83 in recent times, in April last year to be precise. With Yuki out for months owing to a knee injury, Prajnesh has taken over the baton to sustain the Indian challenge in the big league, with some support from Ramkumar Ramanathan.

What has been fascinating, as much as the jump from 260 to 176 last year after Anning, was the manner in which the Chennai left-hander has been able to break through from a zero rank in June 2015, to where he is today.

The recurring knee problem had cost a few years for Prajnesh, as he was virtually ranked zero from 2007 to 2012. He had a rank of 478 in April 2014, before slipping to zero thereafter.

It is a saga of courage, as Prajnesh has been able to soldier on with single minded dedication with the support of his father Prabhakaran, and a team of dedicated professionals in Europe and at home.

To cut to the present, the second seeded Prajnesh had reached Nanchang for the Challenger around midnight, after the final in Anning. A neck strain that had troubled him during the last two rounds of the Anning Challenger, flared up, forcing Prajnesh to take the judicious decision of withdrawing from Nanchang.

He hopped on to the flight to Frankfurt, so that he could recover and train for the ATP Tour event in Munich next week, in which he may play the qualifying event.

As luck would have it, the spot vacated by Prajnesh in the draw has been occupied by Vishnu Vardhan in Nanchang.

Ironically, even when Prajnesh withdraws from an event, it only helps Indian tennis!

These are times, when he can rarely put a foot wrong.