After failing to secure a place through qualifiers, the Indian had entered the main draw as the lucky loser.
India’s challenge in the men’s singles event at the Australian Open came to a screeching halt on Tuesday as world no. 122 Prajnesh Gunneswaran was downed 4-6, 2-6, 5-7 by Japan’s Tatsuma Ito.
The 30-year-old Indian was expected to advance into the next round of the Grand Slam given his superior rank over Ito, who is 23 places below him on the ranking table. However, Prajnesh Gunneswaran was far from his best as the Japanese looked comfortable in the first two sets that took the match away.
Right from the opening set, the left-hander was broken at crucial points during the match. It took Ito only as long as the third game of the first set to break Prajnesh Gunneswaran and lead 3-1. Holding his serve for the other games, Ito won the first set 6-4 to lead the match 1-0 early on.
While the trail demanded Prajnesh Gunneswaran to pull up his socks in the second set, the Indian was shakier in it. This time he was broken twice – in the third and the seventh game – as Ito went on to win the second set 6-2.
It was only in the third set that Prajnesh Gunneswaran showed sparks of a comeback as he broke Ito in the second game to lead 2-1.
However, it was too late by then, as the wild card Japanese entrant had momentum on his side and he broke the Indian back in the fifth and the 11th game to win it 6-4, 6-2, 7-5 in two hours and one minute.
Tatsuma Ito will be facing second seed and defending champion Novak Djokovic in the next round.
Sania Mirza has paired up with Ukraine’s Nadiia Kichenok, with whom she lifted the Hobart International title last week. They will be facing the Chinese women’s doubles duo of Zhu Lin and Han Xinyun in the first round on Wednesday.
Rohan Bopanna, on the other hand, has paired up with Japan’s Yasutaka Uchiyama with the duo drawn against the Bryan brothers in the opening round on Wednesday.