Gunneswaran stuns World no. 18 Basilashvili to enter Indian Wells third round

Prajnesh Gunneswaran AP Photo/Aijaz Rahi

Indian qualifier Prajnesh Gunneswaran stunned world no. 18 Nikoloz Basilashvili to achieve the biggest win of his career so far, advancing to the third round of the Indian Wells ATP Masters event on Saturday.

In a match lasting two hours and 31 minutes, Prajnesh secured a hard-fought 6-4, 6-7 (6), 7-6 (4) win.

Playing his first singles main draw at the Masters level, the Indian left-hander had earlier shocked France's Benoit Paire 7-6 (5), 6-4 in one hour and 29 minutes on Thursday.

"It was definitely a huge match. I think I played well, better than I did in the previous round. I had to step up because I was playing a really good player, someone who has been in form and is ranked in the top 20," Prajnesh told PTI after the match.

"He is an aggressive tennis player, hits the ball big and I didn't have too much room to just put the ball in and hope for the best. I came out and was firing and stayed with the right intensity. I think this is one of my best matches mentally and I'm showing myself that I can be at this level."

Gunneswaran rued the chances he missed to finish the match earlier. "I should have finished it at 5-3 in the third set and I also had a lot of opportunities in the second set. I think I needed to be a little bit more better in those moments.

"In the tie-break, he stepped up, there was a shift in the momentum and he took the second set. Then I had to reset myself and I had to fight for the set, It wasn't easy, it was close, I had to find a way to get back my composure and stay tough mentally to take the third set and the match, which was a big deal for me," he added.

Before this match, Gunneswaran had defeated then world no. 23 Denis Shapovalov for the biggest win of his career at the Stuttgart ATP 250 event last year. The world no. 97 Indian next faces world no. 89 Ivo Karlovic.

With this win, Gunneswaran will atleast rise up to 80th in the ATP rankings on Monday, which will be his new career-best.

Earlier in the year -- nine years after he made his professional debut -- Gunneswaran played in the main draw of the Australian Open, becoming only the fifth Indian since the turn of the century to qualify for the men's singles main draw at a Grand Slam. Beginning 2018 ranked 243 in the world, the 29-year old rose to a career-high of 97 in February, following a series of strong results, including two Challenger titles.

Rohan Bopanna, India's sole representative in the doubles event, also progressed to second round with his partner Denis Shapovalov after upsetting the second-seeded pair of Jamie Murray and Bruno Soares 6-4, 6-4. Bopanna is not playing with his regular partner Divij Sharan as their combined ranking was not enough to make the cut for the draw.