Prajesh Gunneswaran’s maiden grand slam appearance was brought to a quick end by American Frances Tiafoe on Court 15 at the Australian Open on Monday. Having come through the qualifiers, Gunneswaran showed good fight in his opening round match but couldn’t convert the few chances that came his way to lose 6-7, 3-6, 3-6 – which also ended India’s challenge in the singles draw.
The highest ranked Indian had come into the main draw after winning two matches in straight sets and then a tense final round of qualifying. In the match against Tiafoe that lasted an hour and 52 minutes, Prajnesh missed out on converting the big points. He had a set point in the first set tie break and broke first in the second set, but he couldn’t make the most of the advantage to allow Tiafoe to make his way back in.
After starting out well on his serve, dropping just 2 points on the second serve in the first set, his percentage dropped to just 55% while errors crept in too. After an intensely fought first set which produced no break points for either men, Prajnesh got the key mini break for a set point opportunity. However, Tiafoe kept pushing the left-handed Indian before closing things out at the net.
A set down, the 29-year-old Prajnesh started brightly in the second set to take the early break but he couldn’t consolidate that advantage and was broken right back. With rising error count, Prajnesh was broken once again in the sixth game. The second set was all wrapped up by Tiafoe in 30 minutes with the Indian making mistakes at crucial junctures.
Prajnesh continued with his tactic of hitting the ball flat and matching Tiafoe groundstroke-to-groundstroke from the back of the court. At some stages, he shuffled things around by moving up when receiving the serve but World No. 39 Tiafoe had an answer ready in most cases. Prajnesh was the first to get broken in the third set but to his credit he hit back immediately to make it 2-2. The 112th ranked Prajnesh was broken soon after before seeing Tiafoe convert the second match opportunity with a running forehand winner. With the win, Tiafoe has equalled his best ever showing in Melbourne and will next face fifth seed Kevin Anderson. The South African beat Adrian Mannarino 6-3, 5-7, 6-2, 6-1.
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