Prakash, at end of tunnel

Sports

In Los Angeles less than seven months ago, Prakash Amritraj was dabbling in a few entrepreneurial ventures and had a growing number of friends in Hollywood. Life was good. But that itch of returning to tennis courts, to test his body once again had been resurfacing. The more he tried to ignore this restlessness, the more it grew. Until one day, he eventually decided to listen to that voice in his head and picked up a racquet for the first time in two years.

And 181 days after that first outing on an LA court with his cousin Stephen Amritraj, Prakash faced Go Soeda in the second round of the Chennai Open - his first ATP event post the break.

The 29-year-old stretched his opponent in the match, but not his stay in the tournament, losing to the Japanese, who's No.60 in the world, 7-6 (2) 3-6 4-6.

But this loss must be seen in proper context. It was Prakash's fifth match in four days and he had beaten a top-100 player, Guillaume Rufin (world No.92), in a grueling three-setter less than 24 hours prior to his Wednesday loss. Before that, Prakash's latest entry (ninth overall) into the Chennai Open main draw wasn't as easy as his last seven annual visits to the Nungumbakkam Stadium when he had received a wild card to the ATP 250 event. This time Prakash had to go through the qualifiers.

Not many gave him a chance against the world No. 116, Yuichi Sugita, in Round 1 of the qualifiers, but not only did Prakash's bandaged legs last for five gruelling sets on Sunday, they overcame another three on Monday to make the main draw.

"This is a new beginning for me and I have at least learnt that physically I can handle the rigours of the Tour level. Now it's just about doing the same for the next 365 days and staying healthy. I even played the qualifier of a $10,000 Futures on my return, where they have no linesmen, no umpires, so I am just stopping to smell the roses this time and that makes me appreciate things a lot more," Prakash said.

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