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Sunday, Aug 25, 2019

Prajnesh Gunneswaran ends runner-up in Pune but gets closer to top-100

Prajnesh Gunneswaran lost 2-6, 5-7 to the third seeded Swede, who added craft to power to deny the Indian his third title of the season.

tennis Updated: Nov 24, 2018 21:25 IST
Press Trust of India
Press Trust of India
India's Prajnesh Gunneswaran plays a shot against Canada's Brayden Schnur.
India's Prajnesh Gunneswaran plays a shot against Canada's Brayden Schnur.(PTI)

India’s Prajnesh Gunneswaran gave his all but was outgunned by Elias Ymer in an energy-sapping baseline slugfest to end as runner-up at the KPIT-MSLTA Challenge in Pune on Saturday.

Playing his second final after winning the Bengaluru open last week, Prajnesh lost 2-6, 5-7 to the third seeded Swede, who added craft to power to deny the Indian his third title of the season.

The 29-year-old Indian yet again ended as a finalist at this Challenger, having lost the final of the 2016 edition.

Ymer, who had a 5-0 record coming into this final, maintained the clean state with a commanding win.

He served aces, a total of 12, at crucial points, at many times when it was 30-30 or 40-30. It made a huge difference to the outcome of the game as he saved all four break points in the one-hour-27-minute match.

With 48 points in his tally, Prajnesh, who is in the form of his life, will now move to his career-best singles rank of 104.

Long rallies were order of the day and immense strength and stamina was required to prevail. Nevertheless, Prajnesh has underlined his growth by beating players to whom he had lost in the past on way to the two finals.

“May be I need to get stronger to last in such long rallies but I could have played better. I need to get quicker and hit heavy so that I can take away two steps away from him so that he does not return everything,” said Prajnesh after the match.

“He deserved to win, he played better than me throughout. I had my chance but he made extra balls. I was 9-0 (matches) coming into this match and is definitely tired now,” he said.

READ: Saina Nehwal, Sameer Verma enter final of Syed Modi International

Prajnesh will now try to win a main draw entry into the Australian Open by winning the Asia-Pacific Play-off in Zuhai.

Ymer said playing under the lights suited his style of play.

“The balls were flying and it made it much easier for me. Also, I had never hit so many aces and today I did, it helped me. I was returning better,” Ymer said.

The Swede hit a forehand long at deuce in the third game and Prajnesh had his first opportunity break away. The Egyptian though served well to save that point. Ymer struggled a bit in that game but after three more deuce points, he held.

Prajnesh saved two breakpoints in the next game but Ymer outhit the Indian in the sixth to draw the first blood, taking a crucial 4-2 lead. The Swede stayed strong on his service game, easily consolidating his lead.

Feeling the heat, Prajnesh served a double fault and hit a forehand wide to find himself down by two set points. He saved the first but a backhand return jumped off the net outside to lines on the second.

There was an opening for Prajnesh early in the second set but Ymer showed his class as he saved the first breakpoint with a smart drop shot after a long rally and on the second he induced an error from Prajnesh.

In the eighth game, at 15-30, Prajnesh played a drop shot which the crafty Ymer hammered for a winner to earn two chances. Prajnesh, though, saved both and one more to stay alive.

Prajnesh kept fighting but could not break through the defense of Ymer, who held the next game after playing five deuce points. Twice Ymer double faulted from the advantage position but never allowed the Indian to string those two points together.

It ended with Prajnesh losing his serve in the 12th game at love with a forehand error.

First Published: Nov 24, 2018 21:25 IST

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