Bengaluru, Feb 10: India’s lone hope in the singles event Prajnesh Gunneswaran flattered to deceive as after grabbing the first set with authority, went down tamely in the next two sets against top seed Jiri Vesely of Czech Republic in a pre-quarterfinal tie of the Bengaluru Open ATP Challenger at the KSLTA Stadium here on Thursday.
On the back of a 3-6, 6-2, 6-1 victory over the Indian, Jiri marched into the quarterfinals where he meets sixth seed Frenchman Enzo Couacaud who quelled the challenge of Australian Open doubles finalist Max Purcell 6-4, 3-6, 6-2. In the other pre-quarterfinal encounters, Cem Ilkel of Turkey made a superb comeback to down the big serving Russian Evgeny Donskov 2-6, 6-3, 7-5 to set up a last eight showdown with Alexandre Muller of France, a 7-6 (4), 6-4 winner over Bulgarian Dimitar Kuzmanov in a match that lasted for three hours.
With all eyes fixed on the Prajnesh-Jiri match and the partisan home crowd cheering even for unforced errors from the visitor, both the players broke each other’s service in the first two games. Taking advantage of an error-prone Jiri, Prajnesh broke again in the fourth game to go 4-1 up. By the time Jiri found his mojo he had lost the set at 3-6.
As later admitted by Jiri, he didn’t bother much about the result. “I just wanted to be myself and play my natural game. Although his confidence was high after the first set, I don’t know what happened to him, his game just dropped,” said the 28-year-old whose biggest win of his career remains an upset victory over World No.1 Djokovic at the ATP 1000 Monte Carlo Masters in 2016. The aggressive approach helped his cause as he broke Prajnesh’s serve in the fourth game and once again in the eight game to grab the set. In the decider, the 2011 World No.1 Junior, raced to a 5-0 lead courtesy breaks in the 2nd and the fourth game before Prajnesh made an attempt to make a comeback into the game holding his serve before the tournament favourite clinched the issue in the next game. “I think I went wrong somewhere at the end of the second set as I committed too many mistakes which could have been avoided,” said Prajnesh.
Meanwhile, three of the Indian pairs bowed out of the doubles event with only the third seeded pair of Saketh Myneni and Ramkumar Ramanathan advancing to the semifinals after getting a walkover from their opponents Steven Diez of Canada and Malek Jaziri of Tunisia.
Cem Ilkel (TUR) bt Evgeny Donskoy (RUS) 2-6, 6-3, 7-5; Alexandre Muller (FRA) bt Dimitar Kuzmanov (BUL) 7-6 (4), 6-4; 1-Jiri Vesely (CZE) bt Prajnesh Gunneswaran (IND) 3-6, 6-2, 6-1; Enzo Couacaud (FRA) bt Max Purcell (AUS) 6-4, 3-6, 6-2.
2-Alexander Erler (AUT)/Vit Kopriva (CZE) bt WC-Yuki Bhambri (IND)/Divij Sharan (IND) 6-4, 6-3; 3-Saketh Myneni (IND)/Ramkumar Ramanathan (IND) W/O Steven Diez (CAN)/Malek Jaziri (TUN); Jay Clarke (GBR)/Marc Polmans (AUS) bt 1-Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan (IND)/Purav Raja (IND) 6-2, 6-1; Hugo Grenier (FRA)/Alexandre Muller (FRA) bt 4-N Sriram Balaji (IND)/Vishnu Vardhan (IND) 6-4, 6-7 (2), 10-4.