Prajnesh: I can do well on grass against Italy

Prajnesh Gunneswaran is confident of a stellar show on grass when India will clash with fancied Italy in the Davis Cup World Group Qualifiers

Prajnesh Gunneswaran made his maiden Grand Slam appearance in the first round of the Australian Open.   -  GETTY IMAGES

In the form of his life, Prajnesh Gunneswaran is confident of a stellar show on grass when India will clash with fancied Italy in the Davis Cup World Group Qualifiers, next week.

Stress fractures in his knees made him almost vanish from the circuit but the southpaw from Chennai made a remarkable turnaround, achieving a career high 104 recently.

“I’m good on grass. I beat (then world number 23) Denis Shapovalov recently. I should be able to do well here,” Prajnesh told PTI here.

“I did well in four, five tournament at the end of last year. I consistently did well in four Challengers. Those were my best results. I think we will have a slight advantage. We just need to fight hard and close the gap.”

In a breakthrough 2018 season, Prajnesh won two Challenger titles and also upset now world number 27 Denis Shapovalov on grass at Stuttgart Open.

“Here we will have a strong crowd support and we all will give our best to do well for the country making full use of the home conditions. The team atmosphere is just perfect and we have come here much in advance to get used to the surface. It’s reflecting on my game,” the world number 109 said.

READ | India’s Italy tie to be aired live on Doordarshan

He will have Ramkumar Ramanthan with him in singles.

“I know him for a long time, both from the same city and both in top 150.”

Considered a ‘late bloomer’ on the wrong side of the 20s, Prajnesh hopes to soon break into top 100 as he aims a spot top 50 in 2019.

“My target is to be in top 50 but my (Immediate) goal is to get inside 100. If I get there I will revisit my goals. I want to continue at least five to six more years. Knees are in great shape at the moment.”

With Italy’s strong hold over hard courts, India have opted for grasscourts for the February 1-2 fixture which will serve as a qualification for the 18-nation World Finals in Madrid next year.

Pre-dominantly a baseline player, Prajnesh refused to reveal his tactics to tackle the unpredictable bounce on grass courts.

Prajnesh hopes to break into the top 50 in 2019. PHOTO: R. Ragu


“I really don’t want to discuss the tactics, the kind of adjustments we will make. We will see on the day of the tie. Perhaps, I will stand lower to the ground and bend low,” he said.

His moment of reckoning came last year when he won the deciding fifth rubber against Yibing Wu in the Davis Cup Asia/Oceania Group 1 semifinal last April.

Asked about his revival from the career-threatening injury, he said: “I just worked hard and the knee is fine, not giving me any trouble at this moment.”

“There’s nothing that has changed in my technique. I’ve just been improving all the time. I’m working really hard. And the results are showing.”

Having missed out on playing in the French Open last year, Prajnesh made a maiden Grand Slam at the Australian Open but only to fall short in the first round to much fancied US opponent Frances Tiafoe who won 7-6(7), 6-3, 6-3.

“I’m very happy that I made my debut there. I’m looking forward to do better when I placed in the main draw next time,” he said.

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