In-form Prajnesh Gunneswaran dished out yet another impressive performance to make the semifinals of the KPIT-MSLTA Challenger, taming Alexander Nedovysov in straight sets, here on Thursday. Prajnesh tacked the seasoned experienced Kazakh- who once figured in top-100 but is now 186 – with ease, winning 6-4 6-4 in one hour and 23 minutes at the USD 50,000 hard court tournament.
Prajnesh stood out with his fluent stroke-making, specially with his free-flowing forehand which is his biggest weapon. He hit deep returns and fed the Kazkah mostly on his backhand side to open the court, looking for winners. The plan worked effectively for the Indian.
It was second meeting between the Kazakh and Prajnesh with the former winning the first match in his home city in Astana in 2016. Top seed Radu Albot prevented an all-Indian semifinal in the top-half by halting the impressive run of 21-year-old wild card Sasi Kumar Mukund, who lost 3-6 6-4 1-6 in the last quarterfinal of the day.
These two weeks have been fantastic for Mukund as he made consecutive quarterfinals on the ATP Challenger circuit. The 21-year-old, ranked a humble 355, justified the wild card given to him with his fighting spirit. He had beaten Saketh Myneni before outlasting Briton Jay Clarke. Mukund has surely shown the promise and with experience will get better. And today he pushed Albot, who was ranked as high as 81 last year and is a winner of seven Challenger titles, with his all-round game.
Prajnesh will now have to contend with Moldova’s Albot to whom he had lost at the Liuzhou Challenger at the same stage, last month.
The first break opportunity came Nedovysov’s way when a long forehand put Prajnesh down 30-40 in the sixth game. Prajnesh saved with some smart returns, ending the point with an overhead smash and served out the game with an ace. The Indian left-hander though did not let slip his chance, getting the break in the very next game. Prajnesh kept feeding on Nedovysov’s backhand, one of which fell on the net on second chance.
The rest of the set remained on serve with Prajnesh serving it out in the 10th. In the second set too it was Nedovysov, who got the first break opportunity but Prajnesh saved both the chances but could not capitalise on the one chance he got in the next game.
His fierce serve and powerful strokes from the back meant Nedovysov was netted many a returns. Yet to his credit, the Kazakh hung in, fighting hard. It was tight 4-4 in second set when Prajnesh found a forehand winner on second deuce point and converted the breakpoint with a lucky net chord.
Prajnesh his two forehand returns long on first two match points but sealed the contest with another deep forehand which Nedovysov could not out across the net. Earlier, Brayden Schnur prevailed in a tense marathon match against Frederico Ferreira Silva 7-6(4) 2-6 7-5 after battling hard for two hours and 26 minutes.
Schnur’s big serve bailed him out on many occasions, specially the opening set in which he saved seven break points to eventually take it in tie-break. He lost a bit of intensity in the second but fought back in the third and nailed it with a break of serve in the 12th game.
It was a nerve-wracking contest wit both the players playing solid from the baseline. In another intense quarterfinal, third seed Elias Ymer had to dig deep to tame German qualifier Sebastian Fanselow 5-7 6-3 6-4.