Pune: Prajnesh will have to wait for his maiden Challenger level singles title as he missed chances aplenty against Sadio Doumbia to end runner-up in the KPIT-MSLTA Challenger, here today.
Playing his first ever final at this level, the Indian left-hander lost 6-4 4-6 3-6 after two hours and eight minutes on the Centre court of the Balewadi Sports Complex.
It is first full season for Prajnesh after five years as he overcame stress fracture issues in his knees to make a comeback and considers 2016 as his breakthrough season.
Playing in the quarterfinals of the Delhi Open Challenger early this year was the best show of the season for him apart from winning a Futures singles title in Chennai.
The 26-year-old Prajnesh, who is ranked 13 places above Doumbia at 346, earned 48 ranking points for his effort and got a prize purse of USD 4240 while Doumbia got 80 points and USD 7200.
Doumbia dictated the points initially but Prajnesh still managed to play to his strength ? a crushing forehand. He held his nerves at crucial junctures, whether he fell behind or faced breakpoints but could not convert five break chances he got in the deciding set.
Doumbia was magnificent with his net play as he stood their like a rock and never let Prajnesh pass him. He also controlled the match with his superior game as he found way to wriggle out of difficult situations.
"I created chances but could not convert and it made a difference in the match," Prajnesh said after the match.
The Indian said Doumbia's solid net game did not make a big difference to the outcome of the match.
"Not really, I was a set and a break up. I was did create chances but just could not convert," he said before adding that his career-best performance will give him a lot of confidence for future.
Doumbia played very smart as he opened up court by consistently playing on the backhand of Prajnesh and then unleashed his rasping single-handed backhand for winners.
The Frenchman also approached net to play some delectable drop volleys. Throughout the tournament he employed this serve and volley strategy with decent success.
The Indian was put under pressure from the beginning as he faced as many as four break points in his first service game though came out unscathed.
To Prajnesh's credit, he retrieved the balls consistently and kept the ball in play, looking for mistakes from his opponent. The unforced errors in long rallies earned Prajnesh three breakpoints in the third game.
The French player saved the first two but served a double-fault on the third to hand Prajnesh first break of the match. However, the Indian had a chance to further consolidate the lead but he not only missed a break chance in the fifth game but also dropped serve in the sixth.
Prajnesh though did not let slip the chance in the ninth game, benefitting from Doumbia's unforced errors. The Frenchman served a double fault to 30-30 and followed it with a long backhand.
The left-hander served out the set in the next game but not before saving two breakpoints. Both the players struggled to hold serve in the second set. After breaking each other twice they were locked 4-4. Doumbia sealed the second set with a deft volley, breaking the Indian in the 10th game to stretch it to a decider.
Prajnesh had a chance to draw first blood but he could not convert the breakpoint he got. But Doumbia did not miss his chances as he had the Indian gasping 0-40 in the next game and again found a drop volley winner on the second breakpoint to take a 2-0 lead.
The French consolidated the lead as Prajnesh missed three break chances in the third game and raced to comfortable 4-1 lead. It was not difficult for Doumbia to win from there.