Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Prajnesh Gunneswaran sets sights on ATP Top 100

And this Chennai lad may soon get there, given how much Prajnesh Gunneswaran has gained from stints at the Spain Tennis Academy in Barcelona under the tutelage of Jonathan Stubbs.

The 18-year-old made tennis fans happy by making it to the semifinals of the $15,000 Futures event in New Delhi last week, the only Indian to do so.

Bigger names like Sunil Kumar Sipaeya had fallen by the wayside. And Gunneswaran himself accounted for Ashutosh Singh in the opening round.

It was sweet revenge -- Singh had prevailed in the final of the DSCL National Tennis Championship last year. Giant-killing Gunneswaran had been the surprise finalist then but consoled himself with a title in the Under-18 event.

This time around, Gunneswaran overpowered Singh in three tight sets and went on to beat second seed Yuichi Sugita of Japan in the quarterfinal. He did come unstuck against Pakistan's Aqeel Khan in the semis but by then his performance had brought him in the limelight.

"The mental aspect is very important for me as I have enough standard to play at a much higher standard than my ranking suggests," Gunneswaran told the Indian Tennis Blog before flying back to Spain.

"But some things let me down like my tactical indiscipline and impatience."

They are flaws Gunneswaran is working on in his quest to crack the ATP Top 100, a goal he thinks he can achieve "within the next couple of years".

The 18-year-old is currently ranked 1303 on the ATP list but will move closer to the Top 1000 when the rankings are updated on Monday.

Gunneswaran has had an amazing run over the past two months - a Futures quarterfinal in Spain (after three qualifying round wins), a win at the Catalan Federation Men's Open (see pic and video) and the Futures semis in New Delhi.

Dreams of a hometown win at the Chennai Futures in early September were shattered with a straight-set opening round loss to second seed Alexey Kedryuk of Kazakhstan, but Gunneswaran was happy he gave it his best shot.

"It was only one break each set and I had chances to break too. Kedryuk is much more experienced than me and he showed that by winning the big points," he said.

"I was happy to bounce back from that and do well in Delhi."

Up next for Gunneswaran are three Spain Futures events in successive weeks, starting with the one in Barcelona on October 6.

VIDEO: Watch Gunneswaran in action

$15,000 INDIA F7 FUTURES, New Delhi
(September 8 - 14, 2008)

Men's Singles Semifinal
Prajnesh Gunneswaran lost to (7)Aqeel Khan(PAK) 3-6,2-6
beat (2)Yuichi Sugita(JPN) 7-6(4),6-4
Round 2
beat (WC)Ronak Manuja 6-4,6-2
Round 1
beat (5)Ashutosh Singh 7-6(5),4-6,7-6(7)

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