Prajnesh Gunneswaran - The Lone Warrior of Indian Tennis
One year back, in August 2018, Prajnesh Gunneswaran's ATP world ranking was 171. But now he finds himself at 91. Although he had a patchy couple of months in 2019, the overall journey has been much needed for Indian Tennis.
His rise is significant because the other singles stars of Indian tennis, Yuki Bhambri and Ramkumar Ramanathan, have been far from their best. Bhambri played his last ATP tournament in October 2018, when he was ranked 100 and was India's No 1 singles player. He hasn't played since and now finds himself ranked 961. Ramanathan started 2018 at number 148 in the world and slipped to 177 in the latest published world ranking. He was inconsistent throughout the 2019 season and never able to qualify for any of the Grand Slams.
Gunneswaran, at the age of 29, started breaking through the ranks and won his first two ATP challenger tour titles in April and November 2018 respectively, even beating Denis Shapovalov in the first round of the Stuttgart Open during June 2018. Later on in the year, he broke into to the top 100 of the ATP men's singles rankings.
Gunneswaran started 2019 on a disappointing note when he lost to Michel Mmoh of the USA in the first round of the Pune Open, but within a month time he qualified for the Australian Open main draw. He came through three tough qualification rounds before losing out to world number 39 France Tiafoe of the USA.
Fresh from his Australian Open debut, Gunneswaran made back-to-back semifinal appearances in Challenger tournaments in Chennai and Bangkok in February 2019.
His biggest success came in March 2019, when he reached the 3rd round of the BNP Paribas Open and registered his first Masters 1000 Series win. He overcame the strong challenge of Benoit Paire (world No.69) and Nikoloz Basilashvili (world No.18) before losing out to veteran Ivo Karlovic in the round of 32. In the same month, he qualified for the main draw of the Miami Masters as well.
His improved world ranking helped him in getting direct entries at Roland Garros and Wimbledon but he could not capitalize, and crashed out in the first round.
After Wimbledon, Gunneswaran has played in ATP 250 tournaments but hasn't played well.
As we are already into the eighth month of the calendar year and only have one Grand Slam left, Gunneswaran needs to finish well to keep his world ranking within top 75 of the world.
He has got a direct entry to US Open which will get underway from 26th August. He will be the lone Indian in the singles arena and the whole Indian tennis fraternity will hope for some miracle to happen.
The whole country will cheer for him as he will take the field to register his first ever win in Grand Slam. In thw past, Prajnesh has proved that he has the game to beat top ranked players.
He has to keep his cool in crunch situations of the match and play the big points well. We hope he will stay injury free unlike the ones like Somdev Devverman, Saketh Myneni and Yuki Bhambri and will be able to keep the Indian flag high in big events like Grand Slams and Olympics.