HS Prannoy downed world No 6 Chou Tien Chen in a fiery contest while Lakshya Sen defeated former world champions Loh Kean Yew for two impressive headline results for the Indian contingent on Wednesday at the Malaysia Masters Super 500 in Kuala Lumpur.
PV Sindhu and Srikanth Kidambi came through tricky opening round fixtures in contrasting fashion to also reach the pre-quarterfinals.
While Srikanth came through in straight games 21-12, 21-16 against Toma Junior Popov of France, Sindhu was taken to the distance by Denmark’s Line Christophersen 21-13, 17-21, 21-18 in a gruelling affair.
In the men’s singles round of 32 clash between two top 10 players (because badminton works that way), Prannoy came through from a game down against Chinese Taipei’s Chou 16-21, 21-14, 21-13. In another high-profile opening-round clash Lakshya Sen defeated former world champion Loh Kean Yew in three games 21-10, 16-21, 21-9 to enter the round of 16.
Earlier in the day, Aakarshi Kashyap bowed out in the first round to top seed Akane Yamaguchi. The Japanese shuttler won 21-17, 21-12. And shortly after, Ashmita Chaliha went down in straight games against fourth seed Han Yue of China, 21-17, 21-7. Also bowing out was Malvika Bansod, in straight-games against second Wang Zhi Yi 11-21, 13-21.
Fiery win for Prannoy
Prannoy, who came into the match trailing 3-6 against Chou, was off to a steady start in the opening game but a loose spell just after the interval saw him drop it 16-21. But the Indian picked up the ante from the second game, going on the offensive more often and more importantly cutting down the errors from his game. The second game saw the Indian keep his lead for the most part. The third game saw Prannoy and Chou exchange many hotly-contested rallies. Things also came to a head when Chou tried to prevent Prannoy from rushing between the points. The umpire pulled up Chou and a few high intensity rallies followed. But Prannoy held his own and pulled away to eventually close it out with a good lead.
Prannoy will now face China’s Li Shi Feng next.
In the eighth meeting against Singapore’s Loh, Sen was off to a great start in the opening game, taking a 9-2 lead. It was mostly a breeze for the Indian as Loh struggled to control his errors. The second game was a hard-fought affair that saw Sen trying to keep pace with Loh. But the 2021 world champion forced the decider and that meant for the first time these two were involved in a third-game in their meetings.
Sen was off to a sensational start in the decider once again, going up 11-2. After that, it was a matter of keeping his nerves as he closed the match out.
Sen will next face Ng Ka Long Angus of Hong Kong.
Smooth sailing for Srikanth, anything but for Sindhu
Srikanth started off well in the opening game against the tall Frenchman who has troubled him in the past (2-1 head-to-head). But it was the Indian who took charge in the early proceedings and kept Popov at bay for most of the opening game. The second game saw Popov take momentum at the mid-way interval but Srikanth came back well to close it out in straight games.
Srikanth is in the top quarter of the draw where Viktor Axelsen has withdrawn. He will take on India Open champion Kunlavut Vitidsarn in the second round.
For Sindhu, the start was solid enough as she took the lead in the match without any need for flashy badminton. But the second game saw Christophersen up the pace and constantly trouble Sindhu with her drop shots. The Indian did well to come back from a deficit and make it 17-17 but the Danish world No 33 pulled ahead with four straight points to force the decider.
The third game saw Sindhu open up an early lead but Christophersen once again fought back and lead at the final change of ends, even going 16-13 at one stage. But as her errors started to mount, Sindhu regained some control to prevail in a nervy affair and let out a huge roar at the end.
Sindhu improved her H2H to 5-0 against the Dane and will face Japan’s Aya Ohori next against who she has a 12-0 H2H.
Lakshya Sen too has a tough test, starting off once again as he did at the Asia Championships, with a first-round battle against former world champion Loh Kean Yew. Sen leads 4-3 on the H2H against the Singaporean.
Here’s a look at the schedule for Indians on Thursday:
More information on how the matches panned out here in a Twitter thread.