“I feel like my rhythm is coming back, my level is coming back” – Prajnesh, after a promising run at ATP 500 Washington

Prajnesh Gunneswaran had last week’s Atlanta semi-finalist, Emil Ruusovuori on his heels at the Citi Open in Washington on Tuesday, blistering past him to win the first set 6-2. But the Indian number one couldn’t keep it going, losing to the world number 69, 2-6 6-1 6-1.

Ashish Malhotra spoke to Gunneswaran after the match for ITD.

Prajnesh (Credit – Matthew Reiter)

Q) Tell me how you feel about the match today. Obviously you came out of the gates really fast. Was it just a matter of you playing so well that there had to be some sort of drop off inevitably? Or did he pick up his level? What do you think really went wrong in the end?

I think it was a combination of both. I started well. He looked a little bit tight, which is normal because I’m the underdog so the pressure was on him I think. So I used the momentum well and obviously ran away with the first set and broke twice when I had the chance. I think I played pretty well in the first set. Not too many free points. 

And then in the second when I started I wasn’t sharp in those first couple of service games and then he obviously picked up his level as well. I gave him so much space and started to make too many mistakes and he started to hold the court position better than me. Started to get closer to the line, dictate more often and I didn’t respond well enough I think. 
I just think I wasn’t as good mentally in the second and third as I was in the first set. For sure he did play better in the second and third, but I didn’t step up to match the [inaudible] I feel.

Q) Can you expand upon what you mean when you say you weren’t as good mentally – like did it ever enter your mind after going up by a set like that, that “hey, I might be in the second round? Is it things like that?

No, no, in the sense that focusing.- making sure I don’t make any easy unforced errors. Making sure that I’m on the returns I get my racket on. Stuff like that. Not being 100% focused. Making mistakes that if I was really zoning then I wouldn’t be making. Not expecting to go there and hit winners, but you know, there’s a big difference between hitting a winner and hitting a solid return. So I feel like there was too much space there where I was giving away points where – basically just too many errors. Too many unforced errors. 

Q) Ultimately do you see this as a big opportunity missed? Or do you look at the last couple of days as a positive?

Well I mean I haven’t had a lot of great results this year. Initially I didn’t play well, then I had my injury with my wrist. So I’ve been kind of working my way back to getting more matches in. I played better in the first challenger a few weeks ago – got some matches. And then here I won a few rounds as well. So I feel like my rhythm is coming back, my level is coming back and obviously the more wins I get the more confidence I’m gonna get and then it gets easier to kind of pull out those close matches. 

Now that I’m injury free I’m looking forward to the rest of the season. I’m sure that my results will come around. I think that is also a good sign, you know – I won two good matches. I just need to keep going and maintain this level. What I did in the first set I just need to figure out how to do that more often and then everything will be fine.

Q) What’s the plan now for the next few weeks going into the US Open. I think you’re just going to be doing a training block rather than playing any tournaments?

Yeah. There are no challengers in the US. And there are no hardcourt challengers I think anywhere in the world right now, so I don’t really have a chance to play any tournaments at the moment. 

Q) You won’t try and play any ATP qualies? Or you won’t make the cut?

I won’t get in – they’re both Masters 1000 so I’m not gonna get in. There may be some off chance. I mean maybe there’s some off chance, but I didn’t enter anyway because I was hoping that the schedule would come with a couple of Challengers but that didn’t happen so I’m just going to use the time to prepare physically since I did not get into too much of that when I was injured. So I’m going to try and use that time as well as possible to get ready for the Open.

Q) Where are you going to be training?

I am going to be in Atlanta for the next few weeks.

Photos from Prajnesh’s R1 match:

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