190312 Zeeshan Ali
Zeeshan Ali Image Credit: Gulf News archives

Dubai: Prajnesh Gunneswaran’s dream run may have come to an end at the BNP Paribas Open on Monday, but the little-known Indian player has already created enough waves in the tennis fraternity. The 29-year-old went down 6-3, 7-6 in the third round to 40-year-old Ivo Karlovic.

Indian Davis Cup coach and Fed Cup captain Zeeshan Ali has predicted that Gunneswaran is likely to ride his confidence wave and perhaps end in the top-50 of the ATP Men’s Tour by the end of this season.

Exactly a month back, he reached career high singles ranking of 97 — breaking into top-100 singles rankings. At Indian Wells, Gunneswaran came through the qualifying of the 2019 BNP Paribas Open and defeated Frenchman Benoit Paire in straight sets to enter the second round. He went on to topple 17th seed Nikoloz Basilashvili in three sets to make the third round of an ATP 1000 Tournament for the first time in his career.

190312 Prajnesh Gunneswaran
Prajnesh Gunneswaran Image Credit: ATP

“The growth chart for him obviously right now is all the way up. He has been playing fantastic tennis and he doesn’t need to defend any points at any tournaments from now on till at least the French Open [in May]. These sort of performances can only help him improve his rankings,” Indian Davis Cup coach Zeeshan Ali told Gulf News.

“Judging by the way he is playing, I can confidently say that all his performance from now on will give him a cushion for the rest of the year. I am thinking he deserves to be somewhere in the top-70s and I think he fully deserves this as it will allow him to enter the bigger tournaments. With his performances at Indian Wells, he has proved his potential beyond doubt,” Ali added.

Hailing from Chennai, Gunneswaran was placed 235 in the world rankings at this time last year. However, earlier this week he became India’s highest-ranked player in singles at No. 97 with the likelihood of climbing further [possibly to No. 82] once the new rankings are announced at the end of the Indian Wells event next week.

Ali observed that the breakthrough moment for Gunneswaran came during India’s decisive fifth rubber against China in Tianjin last April. “It was a gamble that we took by fielding Prajnesh for that decisive fifth match against Wu Yibing [US Open junior champion]. He played some amazing tennis, and after that 6-4, 6-2 win there has been no looking back for him. I feel it was all about the mental part of his game that came through,” Ali noted.

“He learnt to play under pressure. It was his first match and it was a live rubber and he came through. It was all about the confidence as he has been playing tennis for a while. He is mature enough to know his game and it all came down to the mental aspect, and winning that tight Davis Cup match. That win saw him making the shift to a level that he was capable of doing. That was the start of this amazing journey for him, and I can see him scale bigger heights,” he predicted.