India's Prajnesh Gunneswaran pulled off yet another upset win on Saturday (Sunday morning IST) to reach the third round of BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells.
He defeated 17th seed Nikoloz Basilashvili 6-4, 6-7(6), 7-6(4) to set up a third round clash with Ivo Karlovic. Georgia's Basilashvili committed 11 double faults, further helping an already on-song Prajnesh to win the crucial points in a tight contest that lasted two hours and 32 minutes to continue his dream run.
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The Indian is appearing in his maiden ATP Masters main draw. The 29-year-old beat the former world No. 13 Benoit Paire 7-6 (5), 6-4 in an hour and 30 minutes in the first round.
The World No. 97 needed only a single break of serve to take the lead in the match. Prajnesh broke Basilashvili’s serve in the fifth game and then held his serve to take the opening set in 31 minutes.
The second and third sets were tightly contested and went into tie breaks with Basilashvili emerging victorious in the former and Prajnesh in the latter to seal a spot in the next round.
“It was definitely a huge match. I think I played well better than I did in the previous round. I had to step up because I was playing a really good player, someone who has been in form and is ranked in the top 20,” Prajnesh said.
“He is an aggressive tennis player, hits the ball big and I didn’t have too much room to just put the ball in and hope for the best. I came out and was firing and stayed with the right intensity. I think this is one of my best matches mentally and I’m showing myself that I can be at this level.”
Before this, Prajnesh had taken out then World No. 23 Denis Shapovalov for the biggest win of his career at the Stuttgart ATP 250 event last year.
Prajnesh will next face World No. 89 Croatia’s Ivo Karlovic in the third round. He had earlier got the better of fancied Frenchman Benoit Paire in the first stage.
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Talking about the game, Prajnesh said he regretted not finishing the match in the second game itself.
“I should have finished it in 5-3 at the third set and I also had a lot of opportunities in the second set. I think I needed to be a little bit more better in those moments.
“In the tie-break he stepped up, there was a shift in the momentum and he took the second set. Then I had to reset myself and I had to fight for the set, It wasn’t easy it was close, I had to find a way to get back my composure and stay tough mentally to take the third set and the match which was a big deal for me,” he said.
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In the last 11 months, the Indian has claimed two ATP Challenger Tour titles, broken into the Top 100 and has become India’s No. 1 player.
(With inputs from PTI)