India’s top-ranked men’s singles tennis player Prajnesh Gunneswaran was handed a straight-sets defeat in the first round of the ongoing Australian Open by Japanese Tatsuma Ito in Melbourne on Tuesday. Despite his loss, Prajnesh pocketed 1,22,500 Australian dollars (around 60 lacs INR) overall for his effort.
Having made it to the main draw as a lucky loser in the qualifiers, Prajnesh fought for nearly 2 hours but failed to take advantage as he lost 4-6, 2-6, 5-7 to Tatsuma. With rain playing spoilsport on Monday, the 30-year-old Indian’s match against Tatsuma was postponed to Tuesday morning. However, Prajnesh could not make the most of one extra day of rest.
It was not a one-sided affair though. Prajnesh fought, fought hard. He showed resilience, grit and determination — with the incentive of potentially facing World No. 2 Novak Djokovic in the second round, he seemed pumped up to win. But truth be told, the World No. 122 was far from his top game and was broken at crucial points by Tatsuma.
The Japanese, who had received wildcard for the main draw, is placed at world No 145, 23 spots below Prajnesh and it was expected that the Indian would go on to win the match. But it was Tatsuma who was on the charge from the opening set. He broke Prajnesh in the third game to take a 3-1 lead by holding his serve and then went on to wrap up the first set 6-4.
In the second set, Prajnesh was even more off his game as he was broken twice by Tatsuma who won it comfortably at 6-2. The Indian attempted a late comeback in the third set as he broke Tatsuma to take a 2-1 lead but the Japanese broke back immediately to nullify Prajnesh’s advantage. Then, at 5-5 that Prajnesh erred as his serve was broken for one last time before Tatsuma held his serve and registered the win.