At a time when many of the world’s top tennis professionals are treading with caution when it comes to travel and participating in tournaments, India’s Prajnesh Gunneswaran is going the extra mile to take a gamble. And to ensure history does not repeat itself.
The country’s second-highest ranked singles player will fly to New York hoping to take part in the US Open, starting on Monday, despite not making the cut in the initial entry list announced earlier this month. That list ended with the 127th-ranked Sumit Nagal as the last man in the draw of 128 after some top players pulled out due to safety concerns and uncertainty around travel restrictions.
In the three weeks since, a few more players have decided to withdraw. Prajnesh—who was ranked world No. 132 at the time of the entry list but is currently at 136—will need another player or two to pull out. After scrambling for various last-minute formalities, the Chennai southpaw departed for New York on Tuesday and has till Thursday—the deadline for withdrawals— to know his fate.
“I know the chances are very low but I feel like I can’t not give it a shot if I’m that close,” said Prajnesh. “Especially given the circumstances, where we don’t know who will eventually pull out or get injured because everyone is playing after a long break. Based on that I just felt I had to be there and see what happens.”
Prajnesh had lost a chance to make his Grand Slam debut at the 2018 French Open as a ‘lucky loser’ because he had left Paris when Australian Nick Kyrgios withdrew due to an elbow injury one day before the start. “I had to think about it (going to New York) quite a lot. But I had to start travelling at some point. And if I was going to go to Europe soon, I thought I might as well see if I can get into the US Open or not.”
The 30-year-old has to find accommodation in New York for he won’t be allowed inside US Open’s bio-secure bubble until he is in the draw. Should that not happen, Prajnesh said he could move to Europe to prepare ahead of next month’s French Open.
“I’m not sure, but I thought I’ll practice a little before the French Open. I’ll probably try and go to Germany, if there are no quarantine there, or head to Austria. But it’s really all up in the air right now until the French Open. It’s frustrating,” said Prajnesh, who entered the main draw of all the four Slams last year.
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