HS Prannoy, India’s No 2 ranked men’s badminton player, got off to a winning start at the All England Open Championships in Birmingham with a hard-fought win on the opening day that saw K Srikanth and PV Sindhu progress in three games as well.

Prannoy came to the All England Open 2018 with almost zero expectations and looked at it as an opportunity to get into some match-playing rhythm before the Commonwealth Games next month.

The 25-year-old ‘Beast’ surprised himself when he staged a comeback after losing the opening game rather tamely to upset eighth seed Chou Tien Chen 9-21, 21-18, 21-18 in an hour and five minutes in the opening round on Wednesday.

Prannoy had suffered a corn in his foot during the Premier Badminton League and the injury got infected and he could barely walk for a few weeks. Though he participated in the India Open and almost attracted the referees ire for not playing to his potential, the world number 12 had started training regularly only a couple of weeks ago and wasn’t sure what to expect at Birmingham.

And when Chou, who last week won the German Open, grabbed the initiative in the opening game with his big smashes it looked like Prannoy would struggle to even stay in the match long enough to earn some valuable match practice.

However, the Indian national champion focused on playing to his strengths in the second game and began growing in confidence as the match progressed. He took the first four points of the second game and rode on that confidence to play aggressively against an opponent who loves to attack at every opportunity.

“I started to trust in what I am really good at and avoid what I am not really good at. That was the difference between the first game where I was trying to do things which I was not really comfortable with.” Prannoy told ESPN after the match.

Prannoy would especially be happy that he could maintain the tempo in the gruelling encounter in which Chou tried to push the pace in the decider to try and unsettle his opponent.

“Before coming here the question for me was will I be able to play. I was really happy if I could just play a match. Now to win such a big round is really big result for me,” he was quoted as saying.

Prannoy will now take on Indonesia’s Tommy Sugiarto in the second round. An all-Indian quarterfinals could be on the cards if he clears the second-round hurdle and third seed Kidambi Srikanth, who had to save a match point before beating Brice Leverdez of France, takes his designated place in the last eight with a win over China’s Yuxiang Huang.

Chirag-Satwik advance

There was further good news for the Indian contingent as the up and coming doubles combination of Chirag Shetty and Satwiksairaj Rankireddy marked their All England debut with a 21-19, 21-18 win over Japan’s Takuro Hoki and Yugo Kobayashi.

The world number 21 combination will now face second seeds Mathias Boe and Carsten Mogensen in the second round on Thursday.