India will have a singles representative after all at the upcoming Australian Open as Prajnesh Gunneswaran was cleared to play in the main draw of the singles event as a ‘lucky loser’.
India’s top-ranked singles player will play Japanese wildcard Tatsuma Ito, who sits 22 places below him in the world rankings, when the year’s first Grand Slam gets underway on January 20.
Prajnesh Gunneswaran could face defending Australian Open champion and world no.2, Novak Djokovic in the second round.
The Indian was unable to clear the final stage of the qualifiers as he fell to former world no. 10 Latvian, Ernests Gulbis in straight sets. However, having made it to the final qualifying round, there was still a slight chance of him making an appearance and it materialised on Saturday.
Local hope Alex de Minaur and Poland’s Kamil Majchrzak suffered injuries and pulled out of the tournament, and with Chilean Nicolas Jarry failing a doping test, Prajnesh Gunneswaran made it to the main draw through the ‘lucky loser’ route.
Third-consecutive Grand Slam
Prajnesh Gunneswaran, ranked 122 in the world, had made his Grand Slam debut at the 2019 Australian Open after he emerged victorious in the qualifiers but could not progress very far, losing in the first round to American Frances Tiafoe.
While he did not play the French Open, Prajnesh Gunneswaran reached a career-high ranking of 75 in April last year and that helped him directly enter the main draw of the Wimbledon, where he again fell at the first hurdle to former world no. 3 Milos Raonic of Canada.
His run of Grand Slams continued at the US Open, where he lost to eventual finalist and world no. 4, Russian Daniil Medvedev.
This year’s Australian Open presents a golden opportunity for Prajnesh Gunneswaran to earn his first victory at a Grand Slam and potentially set up a meeting with a former world no. 1, which could see him emulate compatriot Sumit Nagal.