Prajnesh Gunneswaran advances to final round, Sumit Nagal makes early exit in Australian Open qualifiers

Prajnesh Gunneswaran advanced to the final round of the Australian Open qualifiers. (Reuters/File Photo)

Prajnesh Gunneswaran, India's top-ranked singles player, advanced to the final round of the Australian Open qualifiers in Melbourne on Thursday. He defeated Germany's Yannick Hanfmann 1-6 6-2 6-1 in a closely fought battle that lasted for an hour and 22 minutes.

The 30-year-old will now take on either Federico Coria of Argentina or Ernests Gulbis of Latvia in the final round. Earlier in the opening round, the 122 ranked Indian secured a straight-set win over local wild card Harry Bourchier 6-2 6-4.

Meanwhile, young Indian tennis star Sumit Nagal went down in the first round of qualifiers, losing to World no. 172 Mohamed Safwat in straight sets. This was his second attempt at qualifying for the Australian Open.

Nagal's match, which was scheduled to take place on Wednesday, was rescheduled as the qualifiers were disrupted for a second successive day due to poor air quality caused due to Australian bushfires.

India No. 2 and 21st seed Sumit was out in the delayed first round of qualifying after a 6-7(2), 2-6 loss to Egypt's Safwat in an hour and 28 minutes. He started with two breaks and led 4-1 in the first set but could not maintain the momentum.

Sumit made 28 unforced errors (14 winners) as against Safwat's 27 (who hit 23 winners). After going down a double-break 1-4, Safwat rallied back to take the opening set 7-6(2).

The world no. 128, who won the Buenos Aires ATP Challenger in September last year, lost in his previous appearance in an Australian Open qualifier in 2018 where Italy’s Alessandro Giannessi had bested him 7-6, 3-6, 6-3 in the first round.

Among the other Indians in the contention, Ramkumar Ramanathan frittered away a one-set advantage to make an exit. Ramkumar led against 15th seed Argentine before losing steam to suffer a 6-4 4-6 1-6 defeat to yet again collapse in the Qualifiers of a Grand Slam.

The lone Indian contender in women's singles qualifier, Anikta Raina also made an early exit after losing 2-6 6-7 against Bulgaria's Viktoriya Tomova.

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