Karan Prashant Saxena
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Prajnesh Gunneswaran had a great start to the year 2019. He qualified for the Australian Open in January and followed up with a qualification at the Indian Wells in March, where he defeated the likes of Benoit Paire in the 2nd round and world no. 18 at the time, Nikoloz Basilashvil in the third round. He later qualified for the Miami Open in the same month. Gunneswaran managed to qualify for all the four Grand Slams in the same year, and rose to his career best ATP Rankings of 75.
Speaking in an exclusive telephonic chat with Hindustan Times on the sidelines of Tata Open, Gunneswaran said: “2019 was a pretty good year. I did a lot of firsts. I attained my career best rankings. But the year did not end well as I would have liked.”
Injuries hampered Gunneswaran’s momentum in the latter half of 2019. In November, the Indian tennis player lost his father S. G. Prabhakaran, just three weeks before he was supposed to get married. “I had some bad results towards the second half of the year. I suffered some injuries. Some unfortunate personal things at the end of the year also affected my performance,” the 30-year-old said.
The Chennai tennis star suffered a shoulder injury in the summer, which was followed by wrist injuries towards the end of the year. Addressing the same, Gunneswaran said: “Well, I was injured throughout the summer. I had shoulder issues for a few months. And then wrist injury at the end of the year… so it obviously affected me. I couldn’t do as well as I would have liked,” he said.
In the highly billed US Open first round clash against the rising star Daniil Medvedev, Prajnesh also twisted his ankle and bowed out after losing in straight sets. Speaking on the same, he said: “That’s just unfortunate (fall against Medvedev). It happens sometimes, you trip, you fall. You try to do something, and you just switch on in one match, one week, or two weeks. It wasn’t an injury as such. But it was unfortunate that it happened in that match.”
Prajnesh, though, admitted that he had little idea how to challenge Medvedev even if he was not injured, since the Russian was in supreme form. “But Medvedev was on fire at the time. I am not sure what could I have done. But it could have been nice for me to see how far can I go playing at that level.”
Before entering the Australian Open tournament this year, Prajnesh was still not fully fit. “No, I was not fully fit going into the Australian Open this year. I had tendonitis in my wrist which affected my forehand and I was also having trouble on my serves,” he said.
He crashed out of the tournament after a first round defeat at the hands of Japanese wildcard entrant Tatsuma Ito. In case he would have won the match, an encounter against Novak Djokovic was on the cards in the second round. “I was not focused on the potential Djokovic clash. I was focused on my first round opponent to be honest.”
Now, with the start of the new year, Prajnesh is hopeful he will find his rhythm back. “I am almost okay. My wrist troubles are almost sorted and shoulder is doing better as well. I am hoping to perform better in the Tata Open tournament in Pune,” he said. “I still have my tennis, I still believe I have the game to go further than I did last year. So I look forward to try to make that happen.”
2020 is an Olympic year, and Prajnesh, who is currently placed at 123 in ATP Rankings, has a tough road ahead for him in case he is looking to qualify for Tokyo. Speaking on Olympics aspirations, the tennis player said: “It really depends on the next couple of months, whether I will eye Tokyo Olympics. It is of course, a target. But I have to see how the next few tournaments go to make up my mind on it,” he said.
Thank you for subscribing to our daily newsletter.