World No 36 Kiran George stunned a higher ranked Lu Guang Zu of China 21-11, 13-21, 21-18 to make his way into the quarter-finals of the 2024 Indonesia Masters Super 500 on Thursday.
The 23-year-old Kiran, who entered the main draw after two marathon three-game wins in the qualifying rounds, now remains the lone Indian standing in the tournament as Lakshya Sen and Priyanshu Rajawat bowed out following losses in their respective Round of 16 clashes at the Istora Senayan.
Up against the world No 18, Kiran made brilliant use of the conditions as he raced to an 8-2 lead before pocketing the first game 21-11.
The Chinese shuttler, however, made significant improvements in the next game and Kiran soon found himself trailing 3-11 at the mid-game interval. Down 13 game points at 7-20, the Indian did try to force a comeback by winning six points in a row but Lu wrapped it up 21-13 to force a decider.
The third game was all about handling the nerves and Kiran excelled at maintaining his composure under pressure. The Kerala born shuttler kept his defence watertight and pounced on loose shots which came his way.
Though he trailed 8-11 at the change of sides, Kiran fought back to equalise at 12-12 and later at 15-15 against the more experienced opponent. The Indian took the lead for the first time in the game at 16-15.
Even as Lu reclaimed the lead at 18-17, Kiran kept the pressure on. A bit of luck at the net saw him win equalise at 18-18, while a smash to the opponent’s backhand side gave him the lead at 19-18.
A cruical error from Lu, when he hit the net with his racquet, helped Kiran to two match points before the Indian advanced to the net in a flat, fast-paced rally, forcing a shot into the net from his opponent to storm into the men’s singles quarter-finals in 64 minutes.
Kiran will now face world No 9 Kunvalut Vitidsarn of Malaysia in the final eight stage on Friday.
Earlier in the day, Sen crashed out of the tournament following a 18-21, 19-21 loss at the hands of Demark’s Anders Antonsen. This was Sen’s first second round appearance in a World Tour event since the World Championships in August last year.
An error-prone Rajawat, too, drew curtains on his campaign in Indonesia as he lost 18-21, 14-21 to Brian Yang of Canada.