Satwik-Chirag storm into India Open final, erratic Prannoy bows out

Disappointment swept the Indira Gandhi Indoor Stadium when HS Prannoy lost 15-21, 5-21 in 42 minutes to China’s Shi Yu Qi in the men’s semi-final. Fans who had turned up to witness home favourite win on Saturday fell quiet after the eighth seed lost tamely.

India’s Chirag Shetty and Satwiksairaj Rankireddy in action during the men’s doubles semi-finals against Malaysia’s Aaron Chia and Soh Wooi Yik(PTI)

Less than an hour later, the despondency of Indian badminton aficionados had turned into jubilation as Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty convincingly won the men’s doubles semi-final at the India Open to qualify for a second successive final on the BWF World Tour, having also reached the Malaysia Open summit clash last week.

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The Asian Games gold medallists were on fire as they hammered old rivals and former world champions Aaron Chia and Soh Wooi Yik of Malaysia 21-18, 21-14 in 45 minutes. In the final of the $850,000 event — they won here two years ago — they will face Korea’s Kang Min-hyuk and Seo Seung-jae.

“It was a good win today. Going into the match, we knew it would be a tough game because we have always had some really close games. Even this time, it was quite close; until 17-all it was anybody’s game. We could have been a little calmer probably. Luckily at the end we stayed calm and won that,” said Chirag.

“Then in the second game we started off a bit slow, but eventually got our rhythm back. The crowd support has been tremendous.”

Once no match for the Malaysian fourth seeds, Satwik and Chirag had lost eight consecutive matches from 2017 to last year. But 2023 was a year that saw the world beating Indian combine turn the tables on most of their opponents, including Aaron and Soh. With Saturday’s win, Satwik and Chirag improved their record to 3-8 against the 2022 world champions by earning three successive victories against the world No.4 pairing.

The first game was neck-and-neck between the two pairs as neither gave the other a leeway of more than two points until 17-all. From there, the second seeded Indians turned up the heat by hammering down half-smashes up front the easily close the game.

It looked like the fourth seeds would be able to clinch their first game against Satwik and Chirag since the 2023 Sudirman Cup – the last time Aaron and Soh won against the Indians – when they went 4-1 and then 10-6 ahead.

But buoyed by the crowd – hammering their inflatable cheering sticks – the world No.2 pair began their fightback, eyeing to close the contest in straight games. Chirag was brilliant at the net, effectively killing most rallies before they reached Satwik. Satwik wanted to join the fun as he too approached the net and hammered down more shots to earn significant points that closed down the gap and then helped them level the game at 13-all.

The fightback demoralised Aaron and Chia. The shuttles were flying in fast exchanges as it became a contest of reflexes. In the heat of the moment, Aaron made a couple of service faults.

Satwik and Chirag kept the heat on the Malaysians to win six straight points from 15-14 to the delight of the crowd before Chirag leapt on to Satwik’s lap for more raucous cheering.

Sunday’s final against reigning world champions Kang Min-hyuk and Seo Seung-jae is expected to be a cracker. Though the Indian pairing have a favourable 4-1 record against the South Koreans, including a Malaysian Open semi-final victory last week, Kang and Seo have been in brilliant form of late, reaching five finals in 2023, winning four.

Earlier in in the day, Tokyo Olympics gold medallist Chen Yu Fei of China and silver medallist Tai Tzu-Ying of Chinese Taipei registered comprehensive victories to set up a highly anticipated women’s singles final at the Super 750 event.

While world No.2 Chen Yu Fei was at the top of her game as she prevailed by 21-13, 21-18 against compatriot Wang Zhi Yi, fourth seed Tai Tzu defeated Yeo Jia Min of Singapore 21-13, 21-18 in 37 minutes.

The men’s singles final will see Shi Yu Qi battle Lee Cheuk Yiu of Hong Kong, who ousted second seed Kodai Naraoka of Japan 21-13, 15-21, 21-19.

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