India’s HS Prannoy failed to convert five match points in the second game before going down 17-21, 28-26, 21-18 in one hour and 16 minutes against qualifier Kazumasa Sakai of Japan in the men’s singles semi-final of the Indonesia Superseries Premier in Jakarta on Saturday.
It was a heart-breaking loss for the 24-year-old Indian shuttler who was making a comeback to the international circuit after an injury break of three months and had made it to his maiden Superseries semifinals after beating two former world No 1’s – Lee Chong Wei of Malaysia and Chen Long of China – in the earlier rounds.
In the last four encounter, Prannoy began from where he left against Olympic and world champion Chen Long, showing the patience to build rallies and waiting for the opportunities to go for those expansive overhead winners.
The 24-year-old was first off the block as he opened up a 9-3 lead after the start. But with both players bagging points in a cluster, Prannoy could hardly afford to relax. The Indian dominated the net exchanges and that was enough for him to take the opening game.
Fortunes changed with sides in the second game as Sakai moved to a more comfortable side of the court and quickly took a 5-1 lead. The Japanese looked more comfortable playing his attacking strokes in the second game and seemed to gain control when he took an 11-5 lead into the break.
But just like on Friday, Prannoy wasn’t willing to give up and his ability to hang in there when things are not going his way helped him crawl back into the game one point at a time.
Trailing 17-12, the world number 25 took seven of the next nine points to take the lead for the first time in the second game and it looked like he would finish off the contest when he earned his first match point at 20-19.
But with just one point separating them, both Prannoy and Sakai were involved in a battle of nerves as they even got their coaches on the edge of their seat with the constant exchange of serves. Prannoy earned five match points but failed to convert any of them and the Japanese converted his third game point to take the match into a decider.
It looked like Prannoy had started to tire out in the third game and was guilty of quite a few unforced errors as Sakai raced to a 6-2 lead. The Indian managed to fight back to 9-10 but it was the second cluster of errors that gave his opponent a lead of five points after the change of ends that cost him the match.
Prannoy was only playing catch up from there on and though he managed to save one match point at 20-17, it was not to be his day.