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Prajnesh Gunneswaran shocks Benoit Paire in Indian Wells opener

Prajnesh Gunneswaran, who made it to the main draw of the Australia Open, hopes to carry his momentum into the India-Italy tie. AP Photo/Aijaz Rahi

Indian qualifier Prajnesh Gunneswaran knocked out world no. 69 Benoit Paire for one of the biggest wins of his career to advance to the second round of the Indian Wells ATP Masters event on Thursday.

Playing his maiden singles main draw match at the Masters level, the Indian left-hander shocked the fancied French player 7-6 (5) 6-4 in one hour and 29 minutes.

Before this, 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. 18 Nikoloz Basilashvili from Georgia.

Since Gunneswaran is not defending too many points, he is likely to jump to at least 80th in the ATP rankings, which will be a new career-high for him.

"It's definitely one of the biggest wins of my career," Prajnesh told PTI. "It has come at a good time, I am close to making the cut for the Wimbledon (main draw) and I am going to go up in the rankings. These kind of results, winning matches against quality opponents, definitely adds to my self-belief."

Gunneswaran added that more than the tennis, it was about handling the windy conditions, which played a role in the outcome of the match.

"It was more about who is able to deal with the conditions than playing the perfect tennis. I am glad I got through, I did what was necessary to win but definitely did not play my best. I look forward to my next match on Saturday," he said.

In the doubles draw, Rohan Bopanna is the only Indian competing. He has paired up with Canada's Shapovalov, instead of regular partner and compatriot Divij Sharan.

The Delhi left-hander said he and Bopanna could not have made the main draw together as a team with their combined ranking. Therefore, Bopanna had to team up with the world no. 25 from Canada. Bopanna is ranked 38th and Sharan 40th.