Leander Paes suffers shock defeat at Pune Challenger, Prajnesh Gunneswaran advances

Pune: Prajnesh Gunneswaran progressed to the singles semifinals but the biggest star of the tournament, Leander Paes, bowed out along with young partner Ramkumar Ramanathan following a shock defeat in the KPIT-MSLTA Challenger here on Thursday.

 Leander Paes suffers shock defeat at Pune Challenger, Prajnesh Gunneswaran advances

File Image of Leander Paes. AFP

Third seed Myneni, troubled by right shoulder issues, could never serve the way he usually does as left-handed Prajnesh scored a 6-7(5) 6-2 6-0 win in the quarterfinals of the  $50,000 hard court event.

Prajnesh, ranked 346, is up against second seed and world number 152 Korean Duckhee Lee, who defeated Kazakhstan's Dmitry Popko 6-3 6-4 in the other quarterfinal.

However, the biggest disappointment for the fans was defeat of second seeds Paes and Ramkumar. They were knocked out 6-2 3-6 4-10 by Swiss Luca Mragaroli and Hugo Nys from France.

Paes was broken in the eighth game of the second set as Ramkumar committed two unforced errors and after that they were outplayed in the match tie-breaker.

The defeat ended Paes' 2016 season.

"That break changed the mentality. That made us defensive. Instead of punching the volleys and returns we started playing defensive which should not happen," Paes said after the match.

"But we need to keep the chin up," he said adding that it took him a lot of time to console Ramkumar, who was crestfallen and even broke his racquet by banging it on the courts out of frustration.

However, the top seeded Indian pair of Purav Raja and Divij Sharan stormed into the semifinals with a 7-6(0) 6-4 win over Popko and Marat Deviatiarov.

Earlier, playing a full season after spending five years away from courts due to recurring stress fractures in his knees, Prajnesh struck the ball hard with his forehand as he broke the Davis Cupper in the fifth game to take lead.

Down a breakpoint, Myneni netted an overhead volley and immediately clenched his shoulder.

However, Myneni hit the ball clean and effortlessly, if not hard, and showed good anticipation. Despite pain, he managed to move Prajnesh around the court and broke back in the eighth game to make it even-stevens and took the set via tie-breaker on fourth set point.

Two double faults and an error while picking a half-volley put Myneni down by a breakpoint in the third game, which Prajnesh won when the Vizag lad hit a forehand long. This happened immediately after Myneni had used a pain-killing spray.

After that break, Prajnesh won nine of the 10 games to close the match in his favour and is now the only Indian surviving in the singles main draw.

"I had chances in the first set when he made a mistake. I needed to hold my nerves but I did not. He came out firing but lost rhythm due to his shoulder," Prajnesh said.

"I am happy that somebody is keeping the flag high in the tournament," he said.

Prajnesh said the 2016 season could be called his breakthrough year since he was away from tennis courts for four-five years due to knee problem.

He revealed that he even thought of quitting the game some two years back out of frustration but was kept motivated by his parents.

Prajnesh had done extremely well in the 2007 National championship when he emerged junior champion and ended runner-up in the men's championship.

"I had an elbow surgery after that which kept me away from the game for nine months. And then these stress fractures in knees took away a lot of my playing time," he said.

The other semifinal will be between Frenchman Sadio Doumbia and Serbian Nikola Milojevic.

Doumbia knocked out top seed Evgeny Donskoy 3-6 6-4 6-4 while Milojevic fought past fourth seed Spanirad Adrian Menendez-Maceiras 6-4 7-6(3).

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Updated Date: Oct 28, 2016 10:07:10 IST