Badminton

HS Prannoy upsets Chen Long to join K Srikanth in the Indonesia Superseries semis

Prannoy had to dig deep to overcome the Olympic and World Champion 21-18 16-21 21-19 to reach his maiden Superseries semis.

HS Prannoy and K Srikanth stayed on course for a possible all-Indian final in the Indonesia Superseries Premier badminton tournament in Jakarta on Friday after they registered contrasting wins in the quarterfinals.

Prannoy had to dig deep to upset Olympic and World Champion Chen Long 21-18, 16-21, 21-19 in 75 minutes to reach his maiden Superseries semis, while Srikanth packed off Tzu Wei Wang of Chinese Taipei 21-15, 21-14 in just 37 minutes to make it to the last four.

Despite comfortably beating top seed and defending champion Lee Chong Wei in the earlier round, Prannoy was obviously the underdog going into the last eight encounter against Long. The Chinese world No 8 had not lost to his Indian opponent in their last three encounters and began the match in his regular assured manner.

But that demeanour changed immediately as Prannoy began taking the initiative while playing from the faster side of the court and his overhead jump smashes were too hot to handle even for a player of Long’s stature.

Prannoy, who was promoted to the main draw, took five straight points to open up a 7-4 lead as he pounced on his mid court return from Long and the cross court net dribbles only added to the intrigue of his stroke selection. On a couple of occasions, Long was left stranded looking for a down the line smash while his opponent bent his back to hit a cross court winner.

It looked like Prannoy could clinch the tie in straight games as he caught up with Long at 16-16 in the second game but the Chinese showed his class by stepping up a gear and took the tie into the decider.

The third and final game was a battle of nerve and tactics as Long tried to play flat and fast to counter Prannoy’s big smashes and it looked like the game plan worked when he opened up a 7-4 lead.

But Prannoy wasn’t willing to give up as he put his head down and looked to play long rallies to test Long’s patience. The Chinese began making mistakes and the 24-year-old Indian was ready to pounce on the opportunities that were presented to him.

The rally at 18-17 probably the best indicator of how much every point meant to both the players as Prannoy threw himself twice to return Long’s smash and the Chinese ended up making the mistake of crossing the net while going for a tap.

Long did manage to save one match point but there was no stopping Prannoy as the Chinese sent his clear wide.

Prannoy will now face qualifier Kazumasa Sakai of Japan, who defeated Rajiv Ouseph 13-21, 21-16, 21-10. In the other semifinals, Srikanth will take on second seed and reigning world number one Son Wan Ho.

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