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Meet Prajnesh Gunneswaran - the top-ranked Indian doing well at Indian Wells

Meet Prajnesh Gunneswaran - the top-ranked Indian doing well at Indian Wells
India’s Prajnesh Gunneswaran will be looking to shock the tennis world for the second time in a week at the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells when he takes on Georgia’s Nikoloz Basilashvili in his first ever ATP main draw.

A 6 ft 2in left-hander, Gunneswaran is his country’s top-ranked player on the ATP Tour, sitting just inside the top 100 at number 97.

He set up his round of 64 game against Basilashvili by previously seeing off Italian Salvatore Caruso and Chinese Taipei’s Jason Jung in hard fought second and final qualifying rounds.

"I am happy to come through it. Played two good matches, looking forward to carrying the momentum going into the main draw," the 29-year-old Gunneswaran said after those matches.

And carry the momentum he did, recording perhaps the most significant win of his career when he stunned world number 69 Benoit Paire 7-6 (5), 6-4, on Wednesday to set up the second-round meeting and guarantee $26,430 in prize money.

"It's definitely one of the biggest wins of my career," Prajnesh told PTI following his stunning win over the Frenchman. "It has come at a good time, I am close to making the cut for the Wimbledon (main draw) and I am going to go up in the rankings.

"These kind of results, winning matches against quality opponents, definitely adds to my self-belief."

He now faces a solid test in the tournament’s 17th seed Basilashvili in the round of 64. Ranked number 18 in the world, Basilashvili is also a tennis national hero in his country, and became the first Georgian player ever to win an ATP title by clinching the German Open last year.

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Whatever happens in that match, Gunneswaran is likely to jump up the ATP singles rankings to as high as number 80, just seven places behind the highest ranking of all-time Indian great Leander Paes. 

Prior to his achievements at Indian Wells, Gunneswaran won a bronze medal in last year's Asian Games, and had represented India at the Davis Cup. He also has two ATP challenger singles titles on the tour.

Despite his unprecedented success already in California, Alexander Waske Tennis University student Gunneswaran is unsurprisingly not considered in the running to win the event outright.

World number one Novak Djokovic, coming off a phenomenal three straight Grand Slam wins, the most recent of those an Australian Open dismantling of fellow great Rafa Nadal, is the men’s singles tournament favorite. The Serb will play American Bjorn Fratangelo in his round of 64 match.

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