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Prajnesh Gunneswaran finalist in second US Challenger event in row, regains India No.1 tennis ranking


Prajnesh Gunneswaran noticed the restart to the pandemic-halted tennis season meet with heartbreak in the US, narrowly lacking out on a last-minute entry into the primary draw of the US Open in August. The Indian, nonetheless, has ended it with two consecutive runner-up finishes in the nation.

The southpaw misplaced to proficient American teen Brandon Nakashima 3-6, 4-6 in the title conflict of the ATP Orlando Challenger on Sunday, per week after faltering on the closing step of the ATP Challenger in Cary, North Carolina. The deep runs marked a fruitful finish to the stop-start season for Prajnesh, who on Monday moved 9 spots to reclaim his place as India’s highest-ranked singles participant at world No. 128.

“If I had won one title and lost in the first round in the other, I may not have felt as bad because I lost both the finals, and that’s a bit hard to digest right now. But it’s good progress, the way I’m playing,” Prajnesh mentioned over telephone from Orlando.

The 31-year-old nonetheless regarded again at making two closing appearances on the difficult US hard-court swing with content material. Prajnesh received a few matches from a set down in Cary, together with in opposition to former high 10 American Jack Sock in the Round of 16.

He received the primary set of the ultimate in opposition to second seed Denis Kudla however “then got a bit passive” to squander the lead final Sunday. With a comparatively kinder draw in Orlando, Prajnesh breezed into the ultimate by dropping a solitary set earlier than the exacting schedule of taking part in 9 matches in two weeks took its toll.

“Overall, I’m extremely happy with the way I’ve played in the last month or so. I felt I was playing well and slowly starting to get back to my old level,” Prajnesh mentioned.

Ranked a profession excessive world No. 75 in April final 12 months, accidents, private loss and the pandemic-induced break pegged Prajnesh again in the final 12 months. After lacking out on the US Open, Prajnesh performed six tournaments in Europe together with the French Open, the place he misplaced in the second spherical of qualifying. Gradually discovering his kind and rhythm after the break, he entered the semi-final of the Ismaning Challenger final month after successful three three-set matches.

“It took me some time to get back to this level. I was not serving well. Ismaning was my first tournament on carpet and I played well there and pulled off some close matches. That gave me a little bit of confidence. I needed to get used to handling the pressure situations again—the 30-alls, the tie-breaks, facing break points. Once that happened, I started getting better. In these last two weeks, my mentality saw me through because I’ve played better tennis than this.”

The reward is leapfrogging Sumit Nagal and carrying the tag of India’s top-ranked participant once more. “It’s always nice to have the tag of No.1. It’s definitely something that feels good and I know about. But when it comes to world rankings, it’s important to be inside the top 100. So that is still my target.”

Staying again in the US

The Chennai native has determined to remain again in the US and do pre-season coaching in Atlanta because of the quarantine points in coming again to India. With no readability but on the beginning of the following season, and a attainable situation the place gamers might need to fly into Australia as early as subsequent month for the Australian Open in January, Prajnesh needs to remain put in the US.

“The quarantine issues are why I did not plan to come to India. I don’t know when and where I’ll be starting the next season. As of now, it looks like it will be in Australia. There’s nothing concrete at all; they’ve not let us know what the dates will be, we’re still waiting. If that gets pushed back, I might come home for a bit,” Prajnesh mentioned.

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