The match between the Indian No.1 against the World No.5 had caught the imagination of a lot of fans. The match initially lived upto the expectations of the Indian Tennis fans with Prajnesh playing a very aggressive game and matching Daniil Medvedev on most aspects to bring about a very close first set which Prajnesh lost 46.
It was all downhill from there though for the Indian as his mobility was severely impacted by the niggle in his foot and was just not able to maintain the same level thereafter. Prajesh lost the match 46 16 26.
Some excerpts below from the conversation with the Indian No.1 after the match
Article by Gautam Belday for Indian Tennis Daily
Match result: Prajnesh Gunneswaran (88, IND) l. Daniil Medvedev (5, RUS) 46 16 26
You seem to be limping in. How are you feeling now?
I twisted my ankle at 2-2 in the first set and unfortunately, that was that.
How bad is the injury? Do you need to get yourself checked?
No, it is not that bad but it was bad enough that I could not move. I was struggling to move on the returns for example. If I knew where the ball was coming, it was okay. However, if I had to split and change the direction, then it was tough. I didn’t know in which direction the ball was going to come and at this level, it is too much of a handicap.
I don’t think I played bad otherwise. The first set was relatively close. I had some chances. If I hadn’t lost my service twice, then it would have been closer. After that, I had to go for the broke as I could not really defend with my movement. It didn’t really work. Daniil also started serving well in the second and the third sets. He played smart. He was playing drop shots, playing behind me when he knew it was tough for me to change direction.
How did you feel before coming in? It was a big stage.
Very exciting playing on the big stage. I got to play someone who is World No.5 in the world and is playing really well. It was good opportunity to assess myself on how I would fare against a player of this caliber. At the beginning of the match, I was a bit passive and got into a set of extended rallies and lost the serve. After that, I started to play a bit more aggressive and things looked good. I broke back. I played a really good game to break. He served well but I read the serve and made few good returns. I was able to break him all on my terms. I felt good as I was playing with a certain amount of confidence against a guy ranked so high and I didn’t feel outmatched.
What was your game plan coming into the match?
I knew that I had to play aggressive. I had the tools to hurt him and that was pretty obvious in the beginning. If I played high to his backhand with enough spin, he didn’t really like it as he couldn’t really attack. When I played fast to his forehand, he didn’t really like that. Its not as if he was hitting it out but I had the opportunity to attack more when I did those things.
I was able to read his serve as well which was a big plus for me as thats one of his biggest strengths. If I could neutralize that then I am definately in the match. If I had stayed competitive and stayed with him on the returns then it could have been a close match.
Whats your schedule like coming up?
I will going to China now where I will play 3 challengers in a row. I have lots of points to defend for the rest of the year. I had played a good mix of tour events in the last 4 months and I haven’t done as well as I would have liked. I had some issues in the summer and on Grass I struggled a little bit but I think it was the right move to play the tougher opponents at this level.
I didn’t make the breakthrough but my plan is to play the challengers and hopefully do really well and come back and keep knocking on the door. If I stay committed to it, I am confident of making the jump.
When you play your first shot, it generally tends to be very strong. Is that the approach that helped you to come up from the Challenger level? However it appears that you sometimes appear to be unprepared for it to come back and then you are scrambling for it.
No, I am usually anticipating a return. I have to look at it but it could possibly be me not being able to react in time. I do not play like this at the Challenger level. In fact I play more aggressive when I am playing the higher ranked players as I kind of have to a little bit. I would not have hit as aggressive as I did in the second and the third sets as that is a bit too risky but I did not really have a choice in that regard today.
What do you see as the biggest difference between the Challenger tour and the ATP Tour?
The guy on the tour are able to sustain high level of play for a much longer timeframe The overall quality is also high. The biggest difference I would say is that they are mentally much stronger.
Its about getting used to that gear. Either you train at that gear or you have that expectation of yourself that you will always play in a certain way, you might lose initially but eventually you will get the hang of it.
What do you think you have to do to play at the level above you?
I need to keep playing against these level of players. Because everytime I don’t, then I will get exposed when I play them. If I play them regularly, either you’ll improve and make the grade or you will break down and say thank you, I’ll pack my bags and go home. However, that is the only way.
However, it is not to say that the level on the Challenger tour is not good. I am also one of those guys. For example, on the challenger, you get 2 free points in every game or in every 2 games. However, here you will get only one. If you are not used to that, then that one point is too little. Its that simple.
Do you think you need to invest in more resources to get here?
Ofcourse all those things do matter. If you have a coach to guide you telling you on the things to improve upon and then you work on those things. Having a plan is important and so if you have a coach, it makes it a lot easier.
It also depends on the kind of player you are. There are some players who will just listen to the coach and follow all the instructions. There are the other who think on their own and decide for themselves on what is important.
The prize money in these events is really good. Does it help you?
It does. It sets you up for the rest of the year. You can know that you can travel for the rest of the year say with a coach for as many weeks if I play in the Grand Slam main draws for example.
In general, I think the top-100 in the sport should be paid atleast that much I feel. Its a sensitive topic but if you compare to the other sports, we probably don’t get paid as much. It can be skewed as you might say that you played for 2 hours and lost and make say 50K dollars but its not how it is. There is a lot more that goes into it.
First of all, it is the gross prize money, not net prize money. If we made 50K every week, then thats a different scenario. However, outside of the 4 Grand Slams, it is a lot lesser. Someone like me, who is in the top-100, will still have to play around 15 challengers in an year. Those weeks I am generally at a net loss. So in the other weeks, I have to make for up for that.
In my opinion, it should be higher because right now, only about 100 guys can make a living from this sport. It should be a lot higher than that. In any other sport, if you are in the top 100, you generally make a lot more money than this.
This is supposed to be one of the most competitive sports in the world. So it should be adequately compensated.