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Prajnesh Gunneswaran wins Bronze in Tennis at Asian Games


Prajnesh Gunneswaran settled for a bronze after losing 2-6, 2-6 to Uzbekistan’s Denis Istomin in a semifinal that was much more competitive than what the score-line might suggest at the Asian Games 2018. At 28, Prajnesh Gunneswaran is only getting better. From being a mere journeyman in Indian tennis, the Chennai player has suddenly pitched himself as one of the hottest prospect in men’s singles. The recent months have been nothing short of a dream sojourn for him and it continued when he climbed the podium with a bronze medal in Palembang.

A defining victory in the Davis Cup in March against China with the tie locked at 2-2, a $150,000 ATP Challenger title, qualification for the French Open as a lucky loser (though he couldn’t play since he was not present at the venue), a win over Canadian wonder-kid Denis Shapovalov on grass, a career-high singles ranking (152) and repeated forays into the main draws of ATP 250 events, have all been achieved this year. The left-hander is enjoyinghis moment under the sun. He could not play in the US Open qualifiers as dates clashed with Asian Games but Prajnesh has no regrets. “I am very happy to win a medal for the country. I never thought I would participate in a multi-disciplinary event and return with a medal for the country,” he said. In fact, Prajnesh was India’s No. 2 player in the singles competition and after the early exit of Ramanathan Ramkumar, pressure was on him. He played two long matches and fought back Soonwoo Kwon of South Korea in a marathon three-hour match in the quarter-finals.

“The quarter-final could have gone either way and I was badly cramped. The weather is such that it was difficult on the court but when you are playing for your country you forget about everything else. I was a match point down but kept fighting. I was wasting chances also. But then rain came and I got a break of 30minutes which helped me recover. Not being able to recover enough from those cramps may have played a factor in his semi-final loss. “I was drained out after the win in the quarter-finals and Denis Istomin was at his best,” said Prajnesh.

Prajnesh said he has not set any goals but wants to keep moving forward. “I am happy that finally everything is falling in place in my career. I have not been able to play full seasons because of injury but now I am able to do that. I need to just keep moving forward and go as high as possible in rankings. “I like playing for the country because you get so much motivation around. I guess it always gives me that bit of energy to fight. Here also the team was egging me on and I was riding on their energy.”

It is this drive to excel which has endeared him to Mahesh Bhupathi, India’s Davis Cup captain, who handed him his debut. “He is a player with a lot of ability,” said Bhupathi. “He has often struggled for confidence but after the Davis Cup and the Challenger wins, he has that belief. So you can see him repeatedly qualifying for ATP Tour level events and that’s the stage he belongs to.” “The confidence to play big points well and do things you are not comfortable doing is the change,” said Zeeshan Ali, the captain of the Asian Games contingent. “You can’t beat Shapovalov on grass from the baseline. So on that day, he believed he could volley. Also, we Indians have this habit of seeking results too soon. One should understand that these are long-term commitments and we have always seen a pattern where our players have started doing well a bit later in their careers,” he added.

Congratulating him on behalf of the people of Tamil Nadu, the Chief Minister said "the Government of Tamil Nadu sanctions Rs 20 lakh for your achievement. I was delighted to learn your triumph, a bronze medal in the tennis men’s singles event at the ongoing 18th Asian Games at Jakarta, Indonesia,” Palaniswami said in a letter to the tennis player.

Meanwhile, India's Rohan Bopanna and Divij Sharan celebrate with their gold medal and plush mascots on day 6 of the 18th Asian Games in Palembang. Bopanna and Sharan defeated Aleksander Bublik and Denis Yevseyev of Kazakhstan 6-3 6-4 in 52 minutes. Top seeds Rohan Bopanna and Divij Sharan notched up their maiden men’s tennis doubles gold medal at the Asian Games, dominating the final clash with a thoroughly clinical performance in Palembang.

Less than 20 minutes into the match, the Indians were 4-1 ahead, breaking Bublik and Yevseyev at the very first opportunity they got. In no time, the top seeds were serving for the set with a 5-3 lead and Bopanna’s booming serve wrapped it up in style for them. The Kazakhs had their moments but were undone by erratic play — a brilliant cross-court backhand winner one moment and a powerless return buried in the nets the very next minute.

India have claimed the men’s doubles gold on four occasions at the Games, the last pair being Somdev Devvarman and Sanam Singh in the 2010 Guangzhou edition. Mahesh Bhupathi and Leander Paes remain the most successful Indian men’s doubles pair in the Asian Games history, having claimed back-to-back gold medals in the 2002 and 2006 Games. Paes had stunned the Indian team this time by pulling out on the eve of the Games after complaining of not getting a specialist partner of his choice. In 2014, Saketh Myneni and Sanam ended with a silver medal. Mahesh Bhupathi and Leander Paes remain the most successful Indian men’s doubles pair in the Asian Games history, having claimed back-to-back gold medals in the 2002 and 2006Games. Paes had stunned the Indian team this time by pulling out on the eve of the Games after complaining of not getting a specialist partner of his choice.

In 2014, Saketh Myneni and Sanam ended with a silver medal.


Sports News By

Srinivasan


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