Prajnesh Gunneswaran did his growing confidence a world of good by clinching the singles title in the $150,000 Challenger tennis tournament in Anning, China, on Sunday.
Overcoming a poor finish in the first set with a 5-7, 6-3, 6-1 victory over Mohamed Safwat of Egypt, the 28-year-old Prajnesh won his maiden Challenger title, in his second final at this level.
It was the second title of the season for Prajnesh after he won the Futures in Chandigarh before the Davis Cup tie against China in which he won the decisive fifth rubber against Yibing Wu in Tianjin.
READ: Always felt I could achieve this, says Prajnesh after maiden Challenger title
"The conditions suited me and I am very happy to have played consistently good tennis over five matches," said Prajnesh, quite relaxed, despite the tremendous boost to his rank.
The 260th ranked Prajnesh expects to catapult to the top-200 with the 125 ATP points acquired from the title. "I was worried about getting into the French Open qualifying event.
Now, I should make it," he said.
Prajnesh did very well to break back in the tenth game to be on par at 5-5 in the first set, but he let his opponent off the hook. "I served very bad in the 11th game. He was serving well. But, I knew that once I controlled my game and the double faults, I would get back
into the match, especially with a good second set,’’ he said.
Prajnesh preserved his best for the decider when he broke his opponent thrice and did not offer a single breakpoint. The Indian fired four aces and nine double faults in the match, while converting seven of 13 breakpoints, and dropping serve four times.
"After I reached the quarterfinals, I knew I had a good chance. The altitude helped my style of top-spin play, particularly on the forehand. The altitude is like, twice that of Bengaluru. I kept the aggressive style of play and it worked," he added.
"It shows me what I am capable of, if I play my best tennis. It is one thing to know, quite another, to execute. The improved ranking should help me get seeded in the Challengers’’, said Prajnesh, looking ahead with optimism.
Quite grateful to his parents for consistently supporting him and backing his dreams, Prajnesh remembered the good work done by the coaches at the Waske Tennis University in Germany and long-time coach M. Balachandran who had been regularly guiding him, to step it up on the professional circuit.
After passing one test on the tennis court, Prajnesh may now focus on another test in the examination hall. He noted that he was toying with the idea of appearing for his exams in Frankfurt, for the correspondence course that he pursues from the University of London.
"I opted to write the exam in Frankfurt as it would also help me prepare for the French Open,’’ he said.