“Decided to play aggressive and stuck to it. I wasn’t good enough to execute it well” – Prajnesh Gunneswaran on his French Open experience

Playing his first ever main draw match at the Roland Garros, Prajnesh Gunneswaran was pitted against the clay court specialist Hugo Dellien in R1.

Though the match started on a promising note, it all went downhill very quickhill as a rusty Prajnesh sticking to his aggressive gameplan made far too many errors to end up losing the 3-set match in just 75 minutes.

[R1] Prajnesh Gunneswaran (IND, 88) l. Hugo Dellien (BOL, 86) 16 36 16

Below is the transcript from the press conference attended by Prajnesh Gunneswaran right after the match

Sometimes it feels that your game is very one-dimensional. There may not be any plan B as such. You’ve talked about sticking to being aggressive. Can you explain this?

I have played a lot of matches in my life where I made balls and would just run around and find a way to win. However, that is very difficult to do especially in a best of 5-set match. If I run around close to the fence for the entire duration of the match, then I am not sure if I would be able to do it. Even if I did, I am not sure if I’d survive the next match.

I believed that the right way to play today was to hold onto a good court position and try and stay in control of the point. Unfortunately, I made too many errors. At the beginning of the match, I executed it relatively well but I had to make for example, the first service game I lost where it was 30-40 and I missed a forehand. I was inside the court, had the shot but I went for it and missed. There are times, when I would roll the ball in and play it a lot safer but I went in with the plan to attack those and I didn’t want to back off.

Yes, it is possible, that if I played a bit more conservative – I could have had a better chance, I am not sure. I had a plan and I stuck to it – I did not execute as well as i would have hoped. That showed in the result and it went away quickly.

35 errors in total – 23 had come in on the forehand side. Any thoughts.

More errors on the forehand is normal as that is the side, I take more of the risks from. I convert a lot of balls, so I play more shots, volleys on the forehand side. So the higher error count on the forehand side is not surprising.

Several games on the opponent serve, you were up but could not convert.

Too many return errors especially against someone like him who is not necessarily a big server. I needed to be more consistent. Again it boils down to me trying to be more aggressive and the balls get pushed out. The plan was to be aggressive on the return and then take control on the next shot. That just back-fired as I missed the returns.

Was the shoulder doing ok?

It was feeling ok. If I had been playing continuously, probably I may have served better. However, that was not the factor that determined the outcome today. Probably I would have held a few more times which could have added that additional pressure. Say those 30-30s on return games at 4-4 makes a bigger difference than what it was. But it wasn’t as big of a factor.

Did lack of match practice play a role?

I was definitely a bit rusty. Maybe I would have been a bit more sharp and made less errors. Especially for my game plan of being aggressive, the margin was very less – but I didn’t believe that playing an opponent of this standard and especially in a best of 5-set match – that making the ball was good enough and that I should attack the ball.

The rustiness could have a small part to play. I don’t know how much and so I do not want to give excuses.

Your next tourneys.

I will prepare for the Grass Court season and the schedule will be

  1. Stuttgart or s-Hertogenbosch (Stuttgart is the default unless I make the main draw in s-Hertogenbosch)
  2. Queens
  3. Antalya
  4. Wimbledon

This is the first time that you’ve qualified directly into the main draw of the slam and you are the 6th highest ranked Indian ever. Surely, this is something to be proud off.

It is definitely a big milestone and I worked really hard to get to this place. I would have liked a different result today but it is not the end of the world. I have to just keep my foot down and keeping working on getting better.

Its taken you a long time for you to reach here. You are 29 now. Do you think it is a lot more difficult coming from India.

It is definitely much tougher when you don’t have as good a system or competition. In my case, it took a long time because I was injured for so many years. It took me 4-5 years more than what it might have taken. If you remove the injury time, I would probably be 24, which is pretty good unless you are a prodigy.

How can Tennis become more popular in India. Does it need one guy to break through?

That would definately help. However, the kind of breakthrough we are talking about is not a top-100 or top-80 but someone who is in the top-10 i.e., a superstar. Someone like a Nishikori, to make that difference.

Do you take the inspiration from the other sports like Cricket?

I do. It shows that we have the capability to compete at the highest level. We are very competitive in Badminton too.


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