Monday, 30th October 2017

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In best-of-three sets, anything can happen: Prajnesh Gunneswaran

He said beating formidable sides is a possibility in the new Davis Cup format as he looks forward to cash in on his stupendous form

By A Staff Reporter in Calcutta
  • Published 30.01.19, 3:16 AM
  • Updated 30.01.19, 3:32 AM
  • 2 mins read
Prajnesh Gunneswaran on Tuesday. The Telegraph picture

A day after achieving a career-best ATP ranking of 102, Prajnesh Gunneswaran on Tuesday said he would look to make the most of his good run over the past year and help India do well against a stronger Italy in the Davis Cup World Group Qualifiers, starting on Friday.

Prajnesh, who is the country’s highest-ranked singles player, will spearhead India’s challenge against the higher-ranked Italians led by World No.18 Marco Cecchinato, who upset Novak Djokovic in the French Open quarter finals last year.

The 29-year old Prajnesh, who started 2018 as World no.243 and ended it as No.104, won two ATP Challenger titles and also upset now World No.27 Denis Shapovalov on grass at the Stuttgart Open last year.

He also won the men’s singles bronze at the Jakarta Asian Games.

“I’ve had enough tournaments over the last couple of years and I’ve had a very good run in the last six months so I’m looking forward to using the momentum and trying to do as well as possible here,” Prajnesh told reporters after India’s practice session at the South Club.

Prajnesh said beating formidable sides is a possibility in the new Davis Cup format as he looks forward to cash in on his stupendous form.

Best-of-three set matches would be played inside two days as 24 teams will lock horns around the world on Friday and Saturday in their bid for the World Group Finals in Madrid in November.

“Honestly, the change in format would not really matter to me. It’s a bit more physical if we play five sets and in best of three anything can happen.

“It’s in two days and not three days so I don’t really see too much of a difference,” Prajnesh said.

India coach Zeeshan Ali said South Club court was slower than they expected. “There are bad bounces which is normal, the ball is staying low. But also having said that, it is still slower than what we expected,” Ali said.

India have chosen grass keeping in mind of the Italians strong advantage over clay or hard courts.

But the fact remains that grass is not a familiar surface for both the India and Italy sides.

The hosts checked in about a week prior to get acclimatised to the conditions and Ali said: “In terms of having settled in and gotten more practice on grass, we would be a lot more comfortable.”

“But we are playing against a team that has three top 60 players in the world. So we are still very much the underdogs here.

“Our players need to go out there and play their A game to have a chance of upsetting a strong team like Italy.

“So every match is going to be very tough for us, regardless of who’s playing for them. It doesn’t matter whether it’s on grass, clay or hard... It was always going to be difficult for us,” he said.

Meanwhile, referee Wayne McKewen said the grass courts are in great shape but it’s a work in progress in the stands.

Hosting the premier men’s tennis event after 16 years, the South Club is racing against time as the makeshift galleries are still being erected.

“I’ve been told they’re going to be completed by Friday. It’s always difficult when you come to a venue like this where a lot of the infrastructure is temporary,” McKewen, who is also the tournament referee in the Australian Open, said.

“My main concern is the court and it looks in good shape. It’s just the stands that are being built that are a work in progress at the moment. I don’t see a problem,” he said adding that both the teams will get one hour each practice time on the actual court.

He also defended the revamped Davis Cup format.

“A lot of people have different views. Some people are traditionalist, they like the old format. It’s very difficult. I think Davis Cup and tennis needs a change,” McKewen said.