Prajnesh Gunneswaran remains the only Indian alive in the qualifying draw of the Australian Open 2019 as Ramkumar Ramanathan and Ankita Raina both bowed out in the second round in Melbourne on Thursday. The sixth-seeded Gunneswaran needed just 1 hour 14 minutes to get the better of World No. 213 Enrique Lopez Perez of Spain 6-3, 6-3.
A solid performance from the India No. 1 men’s singles player saw him get through without much trouble against the Spaniard, who produced 11 aces. The Indian southpaw made 19 winners against 16 unforced errors while converting three out of the nine break point opportunities that he had.
A win against the World No. 192 Yosuke Watanuki on Friday will see the 112th ranked Gunneswaran get a chance to play in the main draw of a Major for the first time in his career. The 29-year-old was close to achieving it last year itself when, as a lucky loser, he got a late call to enter the main draw of the French Open after a series of withdrawals. But, by then, he had already left Paris to play a Challenger event in Italy.
Gunneswaran had his best-ever season last year in which he won a couple of ATP Challenger titles and became the new top-ranked player from India.
The 21st seeded Ramanathan went down fighting 7-5, 5-7, 6-7(6) to World No. 207 Rudolf Mollekar of Germany in a nail-biting second round encounter. The Indian squandered a crucial break point opportunity at 3-3 in the final set that proved costly in the end.
Ankita Raina played her heart out but fell short 6-4, 2-6, 4-6 in a second-round clash with the 29th seed Paula Badosa Gibert. An aggressive Raina kept it very competitive in the decider against the World No. 142 but some good serves from the Spaniard denied Ankita any chance.