29-year-old tennis player Prajnesh Gunneswaran has been a little bit of a late bloomer on the pro tour. However, he’s recently solidified himself as the best Indian tennis player – at least in men’s singles – in quite some time. That doesn’t mean he’s going to be collecting a Grand Slam trophy anytime soon, but Gunneswaran has given millions of Indian tennis fans around the world a countryman to root for – and he could be poised for a fairly strong 2020.
Gunneswaran started to creep onto tennis fans’ radar in 2018, when he won his first ATP Challenger titles and neared the top 100 in the world singles rankings. He started off the 2019 season with an appearance in the Australian Open, and though he lost in the first round, merely playing in a Grand Slam can elevate a player on the rise to new levels. In the spring, Gunneswaran reached a career-high ranking (80), en route to subsequent appearances (and first-round losses) at the French Open and Wimbledon.
He had a little bit of buzz heading into the U.S. Open at the end of the summer, having defeated John Millman and pushed America’s Taylor Fritz to three sets in Los Cabos. At the Open, he lost in the first round again, in straight sets to Russia’s Daniil Medvedev. It wasn’t a terrific showing, but it looks all the more understandable in the aftermath of the Open. Medvedev nearly won the whole tournament, establishing himself as a likely future champion. Thereafter, some of the American sportsbooks that are looking ahead to the Australian Open already began to give Medvedev some of the best odds to win this next Slam. So, while many had hoped for a better showing in New York, it’s fair to say Gunneswaran lost to someone who may be on his way to becoming the best in the world.
Since New York, Gunneswaran has cooled off a little bit. He’s been playing the Chinese challenger circuit (a necessary process for players looking to climb toward regular inclusion at the bigger events), and he was stunned recently in Ningbo. However, it’s worth considering that the very same exit wouldn’t have been considered stunning a year ago. At this point, Gunneswaran is the top seed at a lot of these smaller tournaments, and is expected to be the toughest out for lower-ranked challengers. That doesn’t give him the wins automatically, and he’ll need to win some of the events if he’s to boost his position on the singles landscape. But the perception is indicative of how far he’s come in the last year or two.
Considering all of this, the stage is set for a very strong 2020 for a player who seems to have a lot more to give. If he can get his ranking up into the 70s or even high 60s, he’ll start to get better opportunities in big tournaments – and once there, he can hang with anybody on a good day.