Prannoy digs deep to beat Wang, Satwik-Chirag cruise

A slow starter, HS Prannoy is known to get better as the game progresses. While Kidambi Srikanth or Lakshya Sen know how to win points and subsequently games from the outset, the old war horse takes his own sweet time with endurance being his forte.

India’s H S Prannoy returns to Chinese Taipei’s T W Wang during the men’s singles badminton quarter-final match at the India Open 2024(PTI)

So when the 31-year-old won the first game in the men’s singles quarter-final against Wang Tzu Wei in a jiffy, it surprised many. But when the eighth seed lost the second, Prannoy fans were in for the same old – another marathon battle – at the $850,000 India Open on Friday.

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But the main hall of the Indira Gandhi Indoor Stadium went quiet when the home favourite trailed 5-10 against the Chinese Taipei shuttler in the decider. But the marathon man from India delighted his fans when he staged a come-from-behind victory to beat Wang 21-11, 17-21, 21-18 in an hour and 17 minutes and enter the men’s singles semi-finals of his home Open for the first time.

“Men singles is a very wide-open category. You just can’t finish things off quickly and come out. Players are going to fight for each round, especially getting to an Olympic qualification season. I really wanted to finish it off soon. But that’s how some days are; you have to fight it out, some matches are long, you have to be gritty enough to win these kind of matches,” Prannoy said after his sixth win in nine meetings over Wang.

The world No.9 started quite convincingly, never losing the lead in the opening game. His favourite shot, the cross-court smash, was used regularly in conjunction with cross-court drops and the variation flummoxed Wang, who even applauded Prannoy. The Chinese Taipei shuttler looked completely out-of-sorts as he kept looking at his coach for some advice. But nothing seemed to work as Prannoy raced away to an 18-5 lead before closing the game in his favour.

But Wang had enough left in his tank as he fought back in the next game to take a 12-6 lead. The world No.28 raised his game and bagged crucial points with a flurry of smashes. Prannoy closed the gap to 13-14 and then 16-17 but Wang regularly brought Prannoy to the net before pushing the bird to the back to win points and push the contest into the decider.

The third game seemed to be heading towards Wang before Prannoy staged a brilliant fightback. Unusually, the Asian Games bronze medallist also used deception to win points at crucial junctures to finally level the score at 14-all.

Prannoy brought out his A game at the end, mixing high-level defence with offence to finally take the lead at 17-16. The difference between the two was clearly visible at the end as Prannoy’s reflexes were far superior to Wang’s.

Backed by the crowd chanting ‘HSP! HSP!’, the home favourite delighted them by winning a contest that was driven by patience and endurance.

“It is always tough to play against somebody like Wang Tzu Wei, who is exceptionally good at the net and attacks well. It was important for me to get that first game right because he is somebody who gets going right from the start. That is why it was a little bit more of a different start today and definitely it helped,” said Prannoy.

“The second game didn’t go really well but I am proud of what I could do in the third game to fight back from that point where things weren’t looking good. The crowd helped big time in that process.”

Prannoy’s toughest test yet at the Super 750 event will be in the form of world No.2 Shi Yuqi with the Chinese having a 5-2 lead in career meetings. However, Prannoy won the last time the two played at the 2023 Swiss Open.

“Shi Yuqi has been playing really well in the last six months. Last week too he was in the final in Malaysia. Over here too, he looks pretty solid out there. So, it’s going to be tough physically. He’s somebody who is very physical and has got good shots coming in all over the place. The major thing is to get the body ready for tomorrow.”

Satwik-Chirag in semis too

Asian Games gold medallists Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty continued their fine run as they dominated against Kim Astrup and Anders Skaarup Rasmussen to win 21-7, 21-10 and earn their third win in nine meetings against the Danes. Next up, they will be up against old rivals and 2022 world champions Aaron Chia and Soh Wooi Yik. While the Malaysians have an 8-2 head-to-head, the second seeded Indians have won the last two meetings.

Knee injury ends An Se Young’s tournament

Meanwhile, reigning women’s world champion An Se Young’s title defence came to an unfortunate end as she had to retire due to knee injury, handing Singapore’s Yeo Jia Min her first semi-finals berth at the India Open. Jia Min will face Tokyo Olympics silver medallist Tai Tzu Ying of Chinese Taipei, who prevailed against two-time World Championships bronze medallist He Bing Jiao of China 21-12, 21-12.

Hong Kong’s Lee Cheuk Yiu continued his stunning run by upsetting Tokyo Olympics bronze medallist Anthony Ginting of Indonesia 21-17, 18-21, 21-13.

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