Five Indians in the singles main draw, yet none could get past the second round of the Tata Open Maharashtra as Prajnesh Gunneswaran crashed out with a 6-3, 7-6(5) loss to South Korea’s Soon-Woo Kwon. He was the lone Indian to survive in the first round. In an already depleted player field, top seed Benoit Paire bowed out of the competition with a 6-4, 6-4 to Italy’s Roberto Marcora.
The match between Prajnesh and Soon-woo Kwon started with the Indian breaking the Korean’s serve, but the joy was short-lived as Kwon wrested back the advantage immediately to go back on serve. At 3-2 and facing his second breakpoint, Prajnesh crashed an easy overhead smash it into the net. Kwon sent one delectable drop shot after another to break Prajnesh for a second successive serve to go up 5-2. The Korean sent a weak second serve on set point, but Prajnesh missed his backhand return to concede the set.
"I missed a couple of smashes in the first set. I hesitated with my shots and lost it. Both those games should have gone my way. It wouldn’t have mattered if I missed it at 15-30, but I missed it at breakpoint and I lost a set because of the smash. That shouldn’t have happened," Prajnesh said.
Prajnesh was better in the second set, showing cautious aggression to go for his forehand winners, but he missed a trick or two by getting too predictable with his preferences as he kept taking two extra steps to the right to convert his backhands to forehands. Taking advantage of that, Kwon mixed up his shots to send Prajnesh to one corner and followed it up with a drop shot or a forehand winner.
Egged on by the encouragement from the crowd - one could hear a lot of young fans chanting his name - he forced a tiebreaker in the second with good serves and forehand winners. At 6-4 in the tiebreaker, Prajnesh took those two extra steps for a forehand again. Thankfully, Kwon found the net and the Indian survived. Kwon saved his best for the last as he came up with brilliant drop and volleys from the net to leave Prajnesh scampering from one end to the other. He couldn’t muster energy for a third return and lost the match.
Assessing his loss, Prajnesh said: "I missed too many first serves and found it tough to hold the service games. I didn’t play a loose game, there were a lot of deuces, but I should have played those deuce points better. It was crucial to win those points. In the moments I had and had the chances to convert, I didn’t.”
“I am still not satisfied with how I am playing. These are the matches I think I should be winning. To be playing on the Tour consistently, I have to win two-three matches continuously. I am not far behind those players, but I should be winning these,” he said.
James Duckworth beat Taro Daniel 6-7 (7-4), 7-6(8-6), 6-3
Soon Woon Kwon beat Prajnesh Gunneswaran 6-3, 7-6 (7-5)
Roberto Marcora beat Benoit Paire 6-4, 6-4
Egor Gerasimov beats Nikola Milojevic 2-6, 6-3, 6-2
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