After a dramatic turn of events on Day 1 of the French Open 2018, India’s 183rd ranked Prajnesh Gunneswaran went close to realizing his dream of playing a Grand Slam main draw match for the first time in his career, only for it to be eventually dashed. The Indian became the eighth lucky loser to get a main draw berth following World No. 23 Nick Kyrgios’ withdrawal on Sunday morning due to his inability to recover in time from an elbow injury.
It turned out that the 28-year-old Indian had already left the French capital when the lucky loser spot went his way. He is registered to play at the Vicenza Challenger in Italy next week, where he is scheduled to take on Salvatore Carruso in the first round on Monday.
Because of his unavailability, the next player to try for the spot is World No. 190 Marco Trungelliti. The Argentine immediately started his nine-hour journey from Barcelona to Paris on car to get the much-coveted opportunity to play the first round against qualifier, Bernard Tomic at 11am on Monday morning.
The Indian southpaw could have still made it to Roland Garros, had he not played in the main draw at the Vicenza Challenger. According to ITF Rules, only one tournament per week is allowed for a player.
But exceptions can be made if the player is ‘released’ by the Executive Vice President - Rules & Competition or Supervisor, provided he is in qualifying.
Gunneswaran’s main draw berth at the Italian event ultimately robbed him of a priceless opportunity to play a Grand Slam main draw match.
With the high number of players pulling out of the first round at the French Open 2018, there has been a scarcity of lucky losers as many have already departed from Paris. On Sunday morning, Mohamed Safwat was the only one to sign in after Viktor Troicki made a last minute withdrawal before going up against the fourth seed Grigor Dimitrov.
Under the revised ITF rules, a lucky loser is to get half the first round prize money in a Major while the original entrant will get the rest.
Gunneswaran was the only Indian to reach the final round of qualifying at Roland Garros this year, after Ramkumar Ramanathan, Sumit Nagal and Ankita Raina all suffered first round exits. He upset the 32nd seed in the second round but was outplayed by the 13th seeded Elias Ymer in the final round.
With Gunneswaran’s inability to come back to Paris, the 94th ranked Yuki Bhambri remains India’s only hope in singles.