Bengaluru: The top picks of the draw, Prajnesh Gunneswaran and Sriram Balaji set up a summit clash in the men’s singles of the $15,000 F5 ITF Future tennis tournament at the KSLTA Stadium, here on Friday.
However, their performances in the last hurdle en route to the final could not have been more contrasting. While Balaji dropped a set for the first time in the tournament against feisty challenger Karunuday Singh and had to tussle for every point on offer, Prajnesh’s 6-4, 6-4 win over German Sami Reinwein was far more straightforward, juxtaposing their relative game management skills in the biggest moments of a match.
On centre court, the spectators were treated to brilliant individual performances as Balaji edged past Karunuday 4-6, 6-3, 7-5 in a heated encounter.
It was a match that hinged solely on who would break the other’s serve, with that moment proving pivotal in each of the three sets. In the first, Karunuday took full advantage of three wayward backhands from the second seed in the seventh game to earn the first break.
With his first serve on point, the 1011-ranked player held serve to take the first set. The second seeded Balaji found his groove in the second, forcing his opponent into errors with his huge serve and by forcing rallies.
He earned his first break in the eighth game to send the tie into the decider. The third set was marred by contentious line calls which irked Balaji. He didn’t lose his focus though, and worked the net effectively to clinch his spot in the final.
In the other tie, top seed Prajnesh emerged victor in the battle of two southpaws. While world no. 574 Reinwein maintained a high intensity from the baseline, Prajnesh appeared the more composed customer, waiting till the decisive moment to seize the game and match.
Results: Singles (S/Fs): N.Sriram Balaji (2) bt Karunuday Singh 4-6, 6-3, 7-5; G. Prajnesh (1) bt Sami Reinwein (6) 6-4, 6-4. Doubles final: Chandril Sood / Lakshit Sood bt Sriram Balaji/Vishnu Vardhan 2-6, 6-4, 10-6.