After a roughly four hour rain delay to start the day, Indian tennis fans in Washington DC were treated to a double dose of success as Prajnesh Gunneswaran and Ramkumar Ramanathan won their final qualifying matches – simultaneously, and on adjacent courts – to enter the main draw. Ramanathan, who only made it into the qualifying draw at the last minute as an alternate, beat Austria’s Sebastian Ofner 7-5 6-1. But it was Gunneswaran who won his match first, knocking out former top-50 player Go Soeda, 6-3 6-1, reeling off 9 games in a row, and ten out of eleven to win the match. Ashish Malhotra caught up with the Indian #1 for ITD after the match:
Q) The first 6 games or so it was a bit scratchy. It felt like you weren’t on the same level as yesterday and I could see you were getting a little bit frustrated hitting a few forehands in the net. But then after that you went on a real run – 9 games in a row, 10 out of 11 to close the match. What do you think changed?
Prajnesh: Nothing. I mean, I was missing at the beginning. I hadn’t settled down and I was pissed because of that, which is why I was reacting probably. I missed a few easy forehands, and you know I was down a break point because I missed a few easy forehands. And I was down a break point I think because I missed that easy ball and I kind of served my way out of that game. But I shouldn’t have been in that situation which is why I was pissed to start with.
But no, I think I played better than yesterday overall. But obviously also I’m playing someone who is a very good player, very experienced so my level was good but he was also playing well. I think I could have started better but he matched whatever I did. For example the first point we played about 10-20 shots and then he hit a winner at the end so right from the get go it was a pretty solid match.
And then yeah, after 3-3 I didn’t really change too much, you know everything I was trying to do the first six games just didn’t fall in. But they started to click. I started to get the rhythm a bit better and then once that happened I pulled away a little bit, I got the break and then I served well and then the second break was at 5-3. That tends to happen sometimes because I’m obviously ahead and I’ve got the momentum so I put pressure and I happened to make those balls and I broke.
And I think from 3-3 I served pretty well. I didn’t really face too many issues on my service games and every service game he had I think there were chances. So many 30-30 points – and even the first few games I had a lot of opportunities. I guess I just started converting more of them as the match progressed. I’m pretty happy with the performance.
Q) What’s it like when you’re on a streak like that. 8 games in a row. What does it feel like? Did it feel like you were in the zone?
Prajnesh: No honestly I wasn’t even paying attention to how many games I had won in a row. I was just basically focused on continuing to do whatever I was doing, which was getting me those results. I broke once, and then I managed to break again for the set and then honestly after that I look at it as a reset. Because if I win 5 games in a row but I lose the first game of the second set I’m still down a break in the second. So I think it was kind of like a mental reset where I was like ok, that set’s done, now I gotta focus and do my stuff in the second. Because I started serving I had to make sure that I do my stuff in the first game. And I did that. I served well in the first game and then right away I got a chance in the second game.
So yeah. I know what you mean – I was up, 5-0, I think? So the potential to even put it away there. So yeah, I guess I was consistent for a pretty long period of time from 3-3 on. So I’m happy with that. Because that’s what it takes to play at the tour level – to be able to deliver that performance consistently. So glad that I did that today and I look forward to trying to do that more often, because I think that’s the key.
Q) You had a 1-2 record against him going into the match. Did you change anything in terms of how you prepared based on those previous matches?
Prajnesh: Not so much to be honest. I feel like my game is well suited to do damage and I didn’t really have to do much to beat him. I just tried to play my game because I knew that if I could enforce that then I would be able to have the upper hand like I did today and I’m happy with that.
Q) Obviously you wouldn’t have been paying attention to it or know what was going on, but it was kind of cool that Ramkumar was playing on the adjacent court at the same time, and you guys both came through around the same time. Does it add anything to a week like this when there’s another Indian in town and you guys are both doing well?
Prajnesh: Yeah, it’s nice to see Ram doing well. He’s had a good few weeks on the Challenger circuit as well. So both of us coming in here. So he’s had a pretty good rhythm and he got in at the last minute and he’s making it count. So I’m glad that we’ve both done well and that we’re in the main draw. It’s always good to have other countrymen doing well and be able to support each other and push each other further.
Q) Do you have your eyes on anyone in the draw in terms of who you’d rather play or not play? Or are you just waiting to see what happens?
Prajnesh: No, it doesn’t matter. Whoever I get I have to prepare and try to do my best so it doesn’t matter who I draw.
NOTE – This question was asked before Prajnesh was placed in the main draw. Prajnesh will take on Finland’s Emil Ruusuvuori in the 1st round
Q) So you were saying yesterday that your wrist is pretty much 100% at this point?
Prajnesh: Yeah I think so. I’m starting to spin more and more. I’m not spinning as much as I usually do but I have no pain so nothing I can complain about right now. I just gotta keep using it more and get back to normal. I didn’t want to rush things earlier because I didn’t want to have it flare up and then I would be out for a few more weeks and I didn’t want to take that chance. So it’s pretty good now yeah.