After a grueling three-set encounter against Brydan Klein here on Friday, Sasi Kumar Mukund earned his spot in the semifinal of the Chennai Open Challenger 2019. The win was Mukund’s best result in a Challenger.
Prajnesh Gunneswaran will play in the other semifinal after he cruised to an easy straight-sets victory over James Duckworth.
With two great teams facing off, the match was thought to go the distance, but Mukund broke in the third game of the first set to go 2-1 up. The 21-year-old’s returns were hard and forced his opponent into making the unforced errors. The Indian broke once again the fifth game when he sent Klein went the other way with a beautifully placed a crosscourt forehand to take a 4-1 lead.
Mukund survived a minor horror in the next game. He began to become weak in his serves and squandered easy points at the net before saving three break points with an ace and held serve. He closed out the set 6-2.
Klein gave a good fightback to take the second set 6-3. The 29-year-old Brit, who was ill and almost threw in the towel in his previous round had fatigued legs. Plus his frustration with line calls and the court as well – once even screaming “the center court is so slow!” – could have put off Mukund, who despite going 2-0 up after taking the early break, started to lose his way.
Mukund struggled with his first serves and Klein maximized with a string of strong returns and some clever defensive play. He broke once again in the eighth game and secured the next one to force the game.
Both Mukund and Klein were unbeatable on serve – they finished the match with 17 and 16 aces respectively. After a few nervy moments that threatened a break, the match would be decided in a tiebreaker.
Mukund picked up the first point of the tiebreaker. More winners followed as Mukund led 5-2. An ace brought up match point and as a forehand from Klein went wide, Mukund wrapped up a fulfilling 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (3) victory.
The Indian came into the match fresh off a straight sets win over Arjun Kadhe, while Duckworth ground out an energy-sapping 4-6, 7-5, 7-5 win over Portugal’s Gastao Elias.
Prajnesh Scores Big
Prajnesh and Duckworth were neck-and-neck for most parts of the first set. In the eighth game, Duckworth grossly mishit a simple overhead volley on break point, which turned out to be a crucial error. Prajnesh pulled it back to deuce and held serve to level the set 4-4. He broke serve the next game and went on a six-game rampage, taking the first set 6-4 along the way.
Prajnesh was masterful on inside out forehands, setting up the opponent to hit winners straight down the line. Duckworth seemed to be playing for a lost cause 0-4 down in the second set. With a sweetly placed crosscourt forehand, Prajnesh booked his spot in the last. Prajnesh Gunneswaran will next face Australia’s Andrew Harris in the semifinal.
Sasi Kumar Mukund 2-1 Brydan Klein | 6-2, 3-6, 7-6(3);
Prajnesh Gunneswaran 2-0 James Duckworth | 6-4, 6-3;
Corentin Moutet 2-1 Nicola Kuhn | 5-7, 6-3, 6-4;
Andrew Harris 2-1 Alejandro Davidovich Fokina | 1-6, 7-6(6), 6-2.
Luke Saville-Matt Reid 2-0 Andre Grandson-Harri Heliovaara | 6-4, 6-3;
Gianluca Mager-Andrea Pellegrino 2-0 Tomislav Draganja-Tsung-Hua Yang | 6-0, 6-4.
Prajnesh Gunneswaran loses to Andrew Harris 4-6 6-3 0-6 in the semi-finals of Chennai Challenger. Despite fighting back in the 2nd set, it was a just a bad day at the office for Prajnesh. pic.twitter.com/SYuYRYj86u
— Indian Tennis Daily (@IndTennisDaily) February 9, 2019