Third seed Saketh Myneni put up a hapless display as he lost to Prajnesh Gunneswaran 7-6, 2-6,0-6 to bow out of the singles draw of the USD 50000 KPIT-MLSTA ATP Challenger.
In an all-Indian affair in the third quarterfinal which lasted an hour and thirty minutes, Myneni battled with an injured shoulder throughout the game. He won the a tough first set, only to lose momentum and fail in the next two sets. Prajnesh is now the lone Indian in the singles draw with fifth seed Ramkumar Ramanathan crashing out earlier on Wednesday.
“I would really want to keep doing this but I also don’t want to be carried away. It would’ve been better had Saketh and I were placed in different groups, but now that I am the only Indian left, I’d look to go all the way,” Gunneswaran said.
Myneni started confidently, playing to his strengths, executing the drop-shots well and serving long at the court. Even though Gunneswaran broke him in the fifth game, Myneni held on to justify his seeding and went on to break Gunneswaran three games later to level things at 4-4. In the tie-breaker, Myneni outwitted his Chennai opponent to take the game 7-5, winning the set 7-6.
However, with a sore shoulder, it wasn’t too long before Myneni started committing some unforced errors with his movement limited to the back end of the court. Gunneswaran took notice of the same and started unleashing his powerful cross-court forehands and drop-shots to which Myneni had no answers to. He fell 2-6 in the second set before Gunneswaran completed the 6-0 rout in the third.
“I thought he’ll come out firing in the third set, but I played the first couple of games well and he lost a little bit of rhythm. Even I stopped missing as many balls as the first set and kind of made it a little tougher for him,” Gunneswaran said. “Since his shoulder wasn’t in a great condition, it makes it worse when you’re losing you know.. It gets into the head.”
Myneni’s movement became sluggish once he trailed in the second set and missed routine shots to throw away his first set advantage. Myneni, who had slammed 10 aces in his last match, didn’t hit a single one this afternoon and was frequently seen rubbing ice-packs during the break. He could convert only one out of the 11 break points he earned while Gunneswaran won six out of his 10.
The win, Gunneswaran’s first against Myneni, ensures him of 29 ATP points and the furthest he has ever reached in a Challenger till date. He will next face Korea’s Lee Duck-hee, who outclassed Dmitry Popko in straight sets to reach the last four. In August 2016, Gunneswaran had defeated the second seeded Korean 6-4, 6-0 when the two met in the Bangkok Challenger.