HS Prannoy overcame an injury scare to secure the vital point as India shocked Denmark in Thailand early on Saturday to reach the finals of the Thomas Cup men’s badminton tournament for the first time.
Danish world champion Viktor Axelsen had provided some early inspiration in the semi-finals for his team – making quick work of India’s Lakshya Sen – sealing victory in 49 minutes, 21-13, 21-13.
“To give some power to my team-mates, that was my goal today,” he said.
But unfortunately it wasn’t enough.
In the end, India and Denmark were deadlocked in a 2-2 tie, and 13th ranked out-of-form Rasmus Gemke was unable to overcome Prannoy, who is 23rd in the world.
Prannoy suffered a nasty slip and injury scare in the first game which he lost 13-21.
But it was all one-way traffic in game two and three - Gemke who was playing in his first tournament all year didn’t have the match fitness to cope after an injury-plagued 2021.
Prannoy galloped away to a 13-21 21-9 21-12 victory, as his team-mates danced and cheered.
India will now face defending champions Indonesia in Sunday’s final.
Here’s what the players had to say after the match (in the BWF Mixed Zone):
“Maybe yeah [that the win was more mental than physical]. Mentally, there was a lot of things going on today. After the slip, it was hurt a lot more than usual, I was not able to lunge properly. I was wondering what to do, thought I will try to manage somehow. In the mind it was always that: ‘I should not give up.’ Just tried whatever I could, praying that the pain doesn’t aggravate. The pain actually reduced towards the end of second game and third game I was feeling much better on court. Will know soon what the scene is actually, hope it’s nothing serious.”— HS Prannoy
“I could really play from the better end, and I tried to keep the good length in the first game, but I think with his half-smashes he was able to crack my defence, it was working very well today. In the second game, the starting stages I gave him a lead and it was hard to come back.— Lakshya Sen
I should have played more consistently. In the second game, when I started at 2-0, 3-0, it was straight unforced errors because of the feel of the lifts. I could have started the second game better.”
“Even in the last edition, the team camaraderie was really good. The singles players were not really in from - Srikanth, Sai Praneeth. The third singles player Sameer [Verma] was good, but the first two were not in great form. Now all three singles players are in form, even us, and even the second doubles team is playing really well. That’s something that has really changed and also this time, the team camaraderie has been phenomenal. We want to win it for the team. We are giving everything we have on the court and also off it. You can see, I’ve lost my voice shouting. It was the same against Malaysia yesterday. We had to match them with our voices.”— Chirag Shetty
“Even before the semi-finals, among ourselves, we just told each other that it is extremely important to think about the semi-final and not think about us reaching the final or who we might play in the final. For us it’s purely, just about doing well. To reach a semi-final of the Thomas Cup was a dream for everyone. We were very happy. And once you do it, it becomes common. There’ll be more and more semi-finals, and finals. And champions maybe.”— Kidambi Srikanth
(With inputs from AFP)