India’s top-ranked tennis player Prajnesh Gunneswaran missed out on a chance to compete against world number two Novak Djokovic as he crashed out of the Australian Open following defeat in men’s singles opening round, on Tuesday. Ranked 122, Prajnesh, who entered the main draw as a lucky loser in the qualifiers, lost 4-6 2-6 5-7 to Japanese wild card Tatsuma Ito, ranked 22 places below him in a rescheduled first-round tie that lasted two hours and one minute.
With this loss, Prajnesh lost a golden opportunity to face Djokovic in the second round. Ito will now take on the Serbian in his next match. Djokovic had prevailed over tough German opponent Jan-Lennard Struff on Monday.
“Definitely he (Ito) was a beatable opponent, good draw for me and for him as well because I was also not direct entrant. Since I had three matches coming into this contest, I was more sharp in the setting but the nerves got better of me today, I was mentally off,” Prajnesh was quoted by PTI.
“I never really got calm, did not find my range, not composed and that made the most impact on the match. I still had a chance in the third set, I was a break-up but I let that slip. He did a good job, did everything that was necessary,” he added.
This was Prajnesh’s fifth straight appearance in the main draw of a Grand Slam event having played in all four majors last year. He had qualified for the Australian Open in 2019.
With Prajnesh’s ouster, India’s campaign ended in the singles event of the Australian Open as Ankita Raina, Sumit Nagal and Ramkumar Ramanathan had exited in the singles qualifiers.
In men’s doubles, India’s Divij Sharan and his Kiwi partner Artem Sitak will face Spanish-Portuguese pair of Pablo Carreno Busta and Joao Sousa in the opening round, while Rohan Bopanna and Japanese Yasutaka Uchiyama will play 13th seeded American brothers Bob and Mike Bryan.
In the women’s doubles, Sania Mirza and Nadiia Kichenok of Ukraine will take on Chinese combination of Xinyun Han and Lin Zhu in the opening round.
Returning to the court after a two-year maternity break, Sania had won the Hobart International title recently partnering Kichenok.