In-form Indian shuttler HS Prannoy defeated World No 4 Tien Chen Chou on Thursday for the second straight time on tour. In a tight round of 16 match at the Singapore Open Super 500 event on Thursday that lasted an hour and nine minutes, the Indian came up with a superb comeback, winning 14-21, 22-20, 21-18 over the third seed.
Saina Nehwal, who is finding her way back to form and fitness came up with a close, hard-fought, memorable 21-19, 11-21, 21-17 win over fifth seed He Bing Jiao of China to go through to the quarterfinals. It was the first win against a top 10 player for Nehwal since January 2020.
Earlier in the day, third seed PV Sindhu was put to the test by Vietnam’s Thuy Linh Nguyen, before coming out with a 19-21, 21-19, 21-18 in an hour and six minutes.
Mithun Manjunath meanwhile, a day after a famous win over compatriot and former World No 1 Kidambi Srikanth, lost in three games to Irishman Nhat Nguyen 21-10, 18-21, 21-16. Ashmita Chaliha, who beat seventh seed Busanan Ongbamrungphan on Wednesday, also lost in the round of 16. World No 19 Han Yue won 21-9, 21-13 in 23 minutes against the Indian left-hander.
Prannoy’s win though was the highlight of the day for India. He had beaten Chou a few weeks back as well, at the Malaysia Open Super 750 in straight games, reeling off 12 straight points in the second to cap a dominant display. But against a determined Chou, looking to make amends, this time around the Indian had to work much harder at the Singapore Indoor Stadium.
Chou started the match well, racing to a comfortable 11-6 lead at the first interval, and held onto that lead despite a brief fightback from the 29-year-old - who turns 30 on July 17.
The shuttler from the Chinese Taipei also had the interval lead in the second and third games as well, only for Prannoy to overturn the deficit in both. The Indian eventually led 20-19 in the second game, but needed a second game point, at 21-20 to secure the game and force the match into the decider.
The third game saw the momentum shift both ways. First Chou made a quick start, leading 12-7 at one stage before Prannoy started to get back into the tie, winning 12 of the next 14 points to lead 18-14.
Chou again started to claw his way back into the tie but Prannoy held onto his lead. At 18-17 in favour of the Indian, the duo engaged in a 60-plus-shot rally that ended Prannoy’s way. He didn’t waste too much time after that to convert his first match point opportunity and book a spot in the quarterfinal.
The duo had first played each other in March 2013 at the Swiss Open, Chou winning on that occasion. He still leads 4-3 after Thursday’s match but Prannoy has closed things down against one of the top shuttlers in the world at the moment.
Another Indian taking down a top shuttler was former World No 1 Nehwal with her win over World No 9 He.
The 32-year-old matched her Chinese opponent till 10-10, then won the next five points to go up 15-10 in the first game. He did claw her way back to level proceedings at 19-19, only for Nehwal to win the next two points and seal the game.
The Chinese player took charge in the second game, racing away to a 17-7 lead and eventually closing out the game 21-11.
Theoretically, it should have been He with the advantage of momentum once the third game started. Instead it was Nehwal who took the lead from the start - one that she would hold on to. She led 19-15 and looked set to walk away comfortably with the deciding game, but He put on a late charge, saving two match points.
But Nehwal converted her third match point to set up a second meeting against Japan’s Aya Ohori in the quarterfinals.
In men’s doubles, MR Arjun and Dhruv Kapila beat sixth seeded Malaysians Sze Fei Goh and Nur Izzuddin 18-21, 24-22, 21-18 in a 65 minute match. The Indians registered one of the best wins in their career on the tour, saving three match points in the second game while doing so.
The women’s doubles pair of Pooja Dandu and Arathi Sunil lost 21-12, 21-6 to Chinese sixth seeds Yue Du adn Wen Mei Ll.
In mixed doubles, the German team of sixth seeded pair Mark Lamsfuss and Isabel Lohau beat HV Nithin and S Poorvisha Ram 21-14, 21-13.
On Friday, Prannoy will face Kodai Naraoka after the Japanese shuttler upset fifth seed Jonatan Christie. It will be their first meeting on tour. For Sindhu, now effectively the top seed of the tournament after Tai Tzu Ying pulled out, a tricky test awaits against world No 19 Han Yue. Sindhu has a 2-0 H2H but hasn’t faced Han since 2019.
Dhruv-Arjun’s reward for their fight back from the brink against Goh-Izzuddin is another tough test as they next take on multiple world championship winners and second seeds Mohammad Ahsan and Hendra Setiawan of Indonesia.