Till last year Prajnesh Gunneswaran was still trying to come to terms with the ATP circuit. Come 2018 and we have already seen Prajnesh`s big game that has given him the form of his life. It gave him his first ATP Challenger at Anning. If that was not enough then he accounted for the red hot Denis Shapovalov at the Mercedes Cup. It also gave him his first qualifying appearances at the French Open, Wimbledon and the US Open. Also his win in the deciding rubber against China had put India in the World Group Play-Off. To enhance his growing reputation he won the bronze medal for India at the Asiad 2018 in the singles category.

I caught up with Prajnesh as he came back after India`s not so successful outing against the strong Serbian side in the Davis Cup World Group-Off. However, it has only made him battle hardened for future battles.

ME: It must be a great feeling to have brought a Bronze medal for the country. How are you feeling and what were your expectations before you landed at the Asiad?

Prajnesh Gunneswaran at the podium of the Asian Games 2018

Prajnesh: Yes, one of the best things that could have happened for me. Definitely one of the biggest in my career so far. I knew I had a medal chance. I have been having a good season and I am playing well, so I wanted to use the momentum and make it count. I am glad I did it for the country.

ME: You are a late bloomer and you are at the peak of your career at the age of 28 years? What have been the major reasons for this sudden turn around?

Prajnesh: I wouldn’t really say I am a late bloomer. I just had a major setback because I was injured for nearly 5 years (2011-2015) where I played tennis on and off and couldn’t really compete the way I needed to, to be at this level.

So it took me a while to go from there to being able to play enough tournaments, get my tennis and fitness levels back, etc.
ME: Has the crucial win against Yibing Wu in the deciding rubber against China in the Davis Cup contributed to your success today? You seemed to have become a different player since then, winning the Anning Challenger soon after.
Prajnesh:  I have been working on my game a lot and I felt like it was just a matter of time before I start to turn things around. It just so happened that the Davis Cup tie is where I really stepped it up.
ME: You played a great match against the red hot Denis Shapovalov to beat him at the Mercedes Cup. What special thing did you do that day? I am sure that has boosted your confidence a lot that you can take on these big guys.

Prajnesh: It was my first tournament on grass. But clearly my game is well suited for grass when I am playing well and since I have a good serve and forehand and when it is clicking, I can be dangerous on grass or any of the faster surfaces.

I knew I had to be aggressive from the beginning, so I stuck to my game plan and I executed it well enough to beat Shapovalov. It was really that simple.
ME: Also at a time when you could have taken the safer route of playing Challengers, you played back to back  ATP tour series ( Newport, Atlanta and Los Cabos). Was it a conscious decision to go through the hard way?
Prajnesh: Yes, I want to be playing at that level eventually, better sooner rather than later. I had the ranking to get entry into the tournaments. I will still play challengers since I have points coming off before the end of the year. But I will play as many tour events as I possibly can while balancing it with Challengers.
ME: You could have made it to the French Open main draw because of the late withdrawals but could not make it as you already entered for another tournament. Also you played in qualifying rounds of the Wimbledon and the US Open. So by now you can safely tell us which is your favorite Grand Slam 😊?

Prajnesh Gunneswaran at the French Open 2018

Prajnesh: Haha,yes I made a choice to play the week after and I couldn’t back out. I would say that French Open could possibly be my favourite slam. But I really don’t have a true favourite to be honest. Ask me in a few years, maybe I’ll have a better idea. I haven’t been to the main site at Wimbledon since the qualies site is different. So I haven’t really seen it all yet.

ME: You have been training at Alexander Waske Tennis University. For how long you have been training there and how has it helped your game? Also it seems to be favorites among the Indians.

Prajnesh: I have been at TU since 2011. Right after a year at college in the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

ME: You are hovering around the 150 mark on the ATP ranking now. You must be aiming top 100 in sometime from now?

Prajnesh:  Yes, top 100 is one of my goals although playing the right events and playing the right kind of tennis is what I am more interested in at the moment. I believe the results will follow if I do the right things.
ME: What are your short term and long term goals?
Prajnesh: Short term goal is to get as close as possible to top 100 before the end of the year. Long term goal is to be top 20 in the world.
ME: We all know tennis is a very expensive game and getting sponsors in India is not easy? How has been your luck with sponsorship?
Prajnesh: As of now, I do not have any major sponsors. I recently signed with Solinco (String brand) for rackets and tennis bags etc. I am currently looking to get some support from the Government.
ME: Can you tell us what is your training schedule in terms of hours when you are not on tour? It will help our young players too.
Prajnesh: I try to do a couple of sessions a day during days I don’t have matches. On match days, a warm up session plus one session if I have a quick match. Otherwise, I just do some fitness and recovery and prepare for the next match.
I also follow a maintenance routine for fitness, so I can stay as close to my best level as possible while I play 3-4 tournaments in a row. 2-3 sessions a week of fitness during tournaments.
ME: Also how strict are you with your diet? Also how often do you cheat yourself?
Prajnesh: I try to get the basics right. Enough carbs, protein, veggies, etc. I’m not the most disciplined when it comes to food to be honest.
ME: Who are your role models? Also who are your favorite tennis player/ players in the tour?
Prajnesh: I like watching the top guys play. They do so many things extremely well and it is inspirational to watch. I have always watched a lot of Federer’s matches although my tennis is nothing like his. He is possibly the best in terms of overall tennis skill. So it is very nice to watch him.
ME: How do you spend your off time when you are not on tour? Also do you sometimes miss home during your long months in the tour?
Prajnesh: I am on my computer a lot. Watching TV shows and Youtubing. Yes, it is always difficult to be away from home for extended periods. I have always been good at dealing with it. I go home whenever I get the time.
ME: Thank you so Prajnesh for your time. We all wish you all the very best and you are surely going to get greater success stories on the tennis court.
Prajnesh: Thank you so much and it is always encouraging to see people like you talking and writing about Indian tennis.