Indian qualifier Prajnesh Gunneswaran achieved the biggest win of his career when he stunningly knocked world number 18 Nikoloz Basilashvili out of the Indian Wells ATP Masters event. Playing his maiden singles main draw at this level, the Indian left-hander secured a hard-fought 6-4 6(6)-7 7-6(4) victory over the Georgian in two hours 32 minutes.
The world number 97 needed only a single break of serve to take the lead in the match. Prajnesh broke Basilashvili’s serve in the fifth game and then held his serve to take the opening set in 31 minutes.
The second and third sets were tightly contested and went into tie breaks with Basilashvili emerging victorious in the former and Prajnesh in the latter to seal a spot in the next round.
“It was definitely a huge match. I think I played well better than I did in the previous round. I had to step up because I was playing a really good player, someone who has been in form and is ranked in the top 20,” Prajnesh told PTI.
“He is an aggressive tennis player, hits the ball big and I didn’t have too much room to just put the ball in and hope for the best. I came out and was firing and stayed with the right intensity. I think this is one of my best matches mentally and I’m showing myself that I can be at this level.”
Before this, Prajnesh had taken out then world number 23 Denis Shapovalov for the biggest win of his career at the Stuttgart ATP 250 event last year.
Prajnesh will next face world number 89 Croatia’s Ivo Karlovic in the third round. He had earlier got the better of fancied Frenchman Benoit Paire in the first stage.
Talking about the game, Prajnesh said he regretted not finishing the match in the second game itself. “I should have finished it in 5-3 at the third set and I also had a lot of opportunities in the second set. I think I needed to be a little bit more better in those moments.
“In the tie-break he stepped up, there was a shift in the momentum and he took the second set. Then I had to reset myself and I had to fight for the set, It wasn’t easy it was close, I had to find a way to get back my composure and stay tough mentally to take the third set and the match which was a big deal for me,” he said.
Rohan Bopanna also advanced to the second round with his partner Denis Shapovalov after stunning second-seeded pair of Scotland’s Jamie Murray and Brazil’s Bruno Soares 6-4, 6-4 in their opening match.
Bopanna, the lone Indian in doubles, is not playing with his regular partner Divij Sharan as they could not make the main draw together as a team with their combined ranking.
While Bopanna is ranked 38th, Sharan is 40th.