Bengaluru, Feb 8: Prajnesh Gunneswaran took the first step towards regaining his 2018 title when he overcame the challenge of Frenchman Mathias Bourgue 7-6 (4), 6-2 in a first round encounter and advanced to the pre-quarterfinal of the Bengaluru Open ATP Challenger at the KSLTA Stadium here on Tuesday.
However, it was Mathias’ compatriot Alexandre Muller who created the biggest flutter when he ousted the second seed Stefano Travaglia of Italy 6-1, 7-6 (2) to enter the round of 16 even as the top seed Jiri Vesely of Czech Republic survived a scare before struggling past Swiss qualifier Antoine Bellier 6-3, 6-7 (2), 6-2.
Meanwhile, the highest ranked Indian in fray, Ramkumar Ramanathan, also India No.1 showed much promise but succumbed to Australian Max Purcell, the doubles finalist at the Australian Open last month going down 6-3, 0-6, 5-7, which left only Prajnesh, the lone Indian in fray for the singles crown.
Prajnesh had an early break in the third game which was nullified by Mathias in the next. The 32-year-old Indian played some nice down the line shots which at times stunned the Frenchman. After both had traded breaks in the 7th and 8th games, the set headed for a tie-break which Prajnesh won at 4. The second set saw Mathias let his emotions get the better of him as he broke his racquet in a fit of rage. An early break in the second game put Prajnesh on the road to victory as the southpaw broke his rival’s serve once again in the eighth game to seal his victory.
Earlier, Vesely was involved in a 2 hour-17 minute battle against Antoine, ranked more than 450 places below him but did show the heart of a lion against the tournament’s favourite. After the 28-year-old Jiri had pocketed the opening set 6-3, with breaks in the 7th and 9th games, the second set saw the 25-year-old Antoine stretch it to the wire as the set was decided via a tie-breaker with the younger opponent scoring four points in a row including an ace to win the set. The fancied player quickly got into the business in the decider when he broke his opponent’s serve and held to go 2-0 up. One more break in the seventh game put him 5-2 ahead. However, the former Junior No.1 struggled after being three match points up but finally converted on his fifth attempt.
Singles (Round of 32)
Gabriel Decamps (BRA) bt Federico Gaio (ITA) 6-3, 6-3; 5-Altug Celikbilek (TUR) bt Alt-Arjun Kadhe (IND) 6-1, 6-2; Q-Borna Gojo (CRO) bt Q- Rio Noguchi (JPN) 3-6, 6-1, 6-2; Alexandre Muller (FRA) bt 2-Stefano Travaglia (ITA) 6-1, 7-6 (2); 1-Jiri Vesely (CZE) bt Q-Antoine Bellier (SUI) 6-3, 6-7 (2), 6-2; Cem Ilkel (TUR) bt LL-Steven Diez (CAN) 6-2, 6-3; Prajnesh Gunneswaran (IND) Mathias Bourgue (FRA) bt 7-6 (4), 6-2; Dimitar Kuzmanov (BUL) bt WC-SD Prajwal Dev (IND) 6-2, 6-2; Evgeny Donskoy (RUS) bt Q-Malek Jaziri (TUN) 7-6 (10), 6-4; 6-Enzo Couacaud (FRA) bt WC-Rishi Reddy (IND) 6-1, 6-3; Max Purcell (AUS) bt Ramkumar Ramanathan (IND) 3-6, 6-0, 7-5.
WC-Yuki Bhambri (IND)/Divij Sharan (IND) bt Altug Celikbilek (TUR)/ Cem Ilkel (TUR) 3-1 (Retd); Jay Clarke (GBR)/Marc Polmans (AUS) bt Arjun Kadhe (IND) / Chun-hsin Tseng (TPE) 2-6, 6-4, 10-7; 2-Alexander Erler (AUT)/Vit Kopriva (CZE) bt WC-Adil Kalyanpur (IND)/Mukund Sasikumar (IND) 6-4, 7-5.