Tata Open Maharashtra: Prajnesh Crashes Out, Kadhe And Balaji Advance

Prajnesh Gunneswaran
Wild card entrant, Prajnesh Gunneswaran blew hot-and-cold in the opening set and in a match with constant momentum shifts, he went down to USA's Michael Mmoh 5-7, 3-6. Credits: Tata Open

India’s top singles player, Prajnesh Gunneswaran suffered a first-round defeat at the hands of his academy-mate, Michael Mmoh from USA. 

India’s Prajnesh Gunneswaran bowed out of the Tata Open Maharashtra in the first round after going down in straight sets against USA’s Michael Mmoh.

Mmoh, ranked 103 in the world, cruised to a 7-5,6-3 victory in an hour and 14 minutes. He got off to a flying start in the first set by breaking Gunneswaran’s serve in the first game. Aided by two more unforced errors from the 29-year-old—in addition to two in the first—Mmoh closed the second game with a smash at the net. 

Courtesy challenging second serves at Mmoh’s body, Gunneswaran pulled one back to make it 2-1, before the 20-year-old American rifled two aces past the Indian’s forehand to retain a two-game lead. Throughout the entire game, Mmoh showed great discipline and concentration. He stayed long at the baseline and manoeuvred the ball beautifully around the court to force errors from his opponent.

Gunneswaran quickly regained his lost rhythm as he racked up three consecutive games. First, he made it 2-3 with a gritty display of powerful forehands winners and an ace. He then broke Mmoh’s serve to level the scores 3-3 with a drop shot that clipped the top of the net and scrambled onto to Mmoh’s court. Gunneswaran took everyone by surprise when he pulled out an inch-perfect drop shot that left Mmoh motionless to leapfrog past the him into the lead.  

Trailing 4-3, Mmoh looked a little rattled for the first time in the match, but held his serves twice to make it 5-5. The match hung in balance until the eleventh game, which proved to be the turning point of the match. Gunneswaran conceded a 40-0 lead to gift Mmoh his second break point and things went from bad to worse for the Chennai star. 

Eventually after toiling for 46 minutes, Mmoh clinched the first set with the help of two huge serves, including a 189 km/h-ace in the final game of the set. 

The story of the second set was no different. Gunneswaran’s eagerness to pull the trigger early backfired and most of his returns travelled long. His poor first serve percentage added to his woes and his over-reliance on the second serve also proved to be detrimental to his progress.

Though Gunneswaran took the first game of the second set, he lost the next to and in the process, conceded another break point to Mmoh. From that point, it was only a matter of time before the American wrapped up the game. He kept pushing Gunneswaran deep with his powerful forehand shots and topped it with sublime volleys. He took the second set 6-3 a little under 30 minutes. 

Kadhe-Balaji Duo’s Spirited Fight:

The only positive outcome for the Indian players involved on Day 1 was victory of the pair of Arjun Kadhe and N. Sriram Balaji over Philipp Oswald (Austria) and Tim Pütz(Germany) in the men’s doubles category. The Indian pair notched up a 7-6(1), 4-6, 10-8 victory in a three-set thriller.

Kadhe and Balaji took some time to find their feet in the contest. Both the teams went into a tie-breaker, where the Indian duo ran havoc as they only conceded one point. Balaji was the star of the show as he secured four of the seven points in the form of an ace, an exceptional backhand service return off Oswald and two passing winners.

The visitors redeemed themselves in the next set by breaking Balaji’s serve at 5-4 to win it 6-4. The third set went down to the wire. They couldn’t be separated after 6 games apiece. Both the teams fought tooth and nail only to see the Indian pair emerge victorious 10-8 in the final set.                                               

 First round results- Singles:

  • Michael Mmoh (USA) bt Prajnesh Gunneswaran (Ind) 7-5, 6-3
  • Ernests Gulbis (Lat) bt Pedro Sousa (Por) 6-4, 4-6, 6-4
  • Steve Darcis (Bel) bt Roberto Carballes Baena (Esp) 6-3, 6-4
  • Evgeny Donskoy (Rus) bt Pablo Andujar (Esp) 6-3, 5-7, 7-6(6)
  • Jaume Munar (Esp) bt Radu Albot (Mda) 6-2, 7-6 (4).

Doubles:

  • Gerard Granollers and Marcel Granollers (Esp) bt Nicholas Monroe (USA) and Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan (Ind) 6-4, 6-4
  • Luke Bambridge and Jonny O’Mara (GBR) bt Purav Raja and Ramkumar Ramananthan (Ind) 7-6(4), 6-3
  • Sriram Balaji and Arjun Kadhe(Ind) bt Philipp Oswald (Aut) and Tim Puetz (Ger) 7-6(1), 4-6, 10-8
  • Kevin Krawietz and Andreas Mies (Ger) bt Benoit Paire (Fra) and Hubert Hurkacz (Pol) 7-5, 6-3
Shivansh Gupta

Shivansh Gupta

Sports journalist working towards bringing unsung heroes of Indian sports into the limelight and helping them grab the attention and respect they deserve. A foodie and a sports fanatic since childhood, Shivansh would prefer watching an old match (from any sport) over a hit movie or series. Shivansh has spent his formative years in Tanzania before shifting to Pune for college
Shivansh Gupta

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