Maharashtra Open 2020: Prajnesh Gunneswaran vs Kwon Soon-woo, preview and prediction
With the success of the inaugural edition of the ATP Cup in the first week of January, the Maharashtra Open was pushed to February - which has resulted in many top players skipping the event. Only Benoit Paire among the top players is participating in the tournament, along with other notable Indian players like Sumit Nagal and Prajnesh Gunneswaran.
The first day of the tournament was a discouraging one for local fans as both Nagal and Ramkumar Ramanathan were eliminated in the first round itself. Nagal lost to Viktor Troicki while Salvatore Caruso got the better of Ramanathan.
The legendary doubles player Leander Paes was given a wildcard into the tournament and, partnering with Matthew Ebden of Australia, he cruised into the second round. Meanwhile, Gunneswaran defeated Yannick Maden of Germany in straight sets, 7-6(4),7-6(5) to reach the second round.
His opponent in the second round is Kwon Soon-woo from South Korea. Although the pair have met only once on the ATP Tour, their paths crossed thrice at the Challenger level - with Gunneswaran getting the better of the Korean on all three occasions. However, their face-off in the second round of the Atlanta Open last year went the way of Kwon.
Gunneswaran has been performing commendably since his arrival on the tour, but his play on the big points is what cost him last year. For instance, even in the match against Kwon at Atlanta, the Indian was a set up before he lost his focus and with it the match.
There have been many instances where Gunneswaran's game has let him down in the crunch moments. But in today's tie at the Maharashtra Open, the Indian managed to play well on the big points - and that made all the difference.
Gunneswaran has to play with the same spirit for the rest of the tournament to have any chance of winning the title. If he shows any signs of dismay or disappointment on the court, that is likely to affect his game too.
As for Kwon, he gave a tough fight to world number 26 Nikoloz Basilashvilli in the first round of the Australian Open before bowing down in five sets. He has an impressive record at the Challenger Level and made his way into the main draws at both Wimbledon and the US Open last year.
Kwon is currently ranked number 88 at the tour level, and is a promising player to watch out for in the future.
While the Korean seems to have an upper hand with his young age and swift movement, Gunneswaran's experience cannot be overlooked. Last year the Indian reached a career-high ranking of 75 in April and seemed determined to climb even higher, but consistent injuries marred the rest of his season.
With the home crowd support and an almost injury-free body, Gunneswaran will be hoping to overcome the Korean challenge and reach quarter-finals of the Maharashtra Open for the first time.
Prediction: Gunneswaran to win in three sets.
Published 05 Feb 2020, 01:22 IST