HS Prannoy and B Sai Praneeth registered contrasting victories to reach the third round of the BWF Badminton World Championship in Basel, Switzerland on Tuesday while the women’s doubles combination of Ashwini Ponnappa and N Sikki Reddy recieved a walkover in the first round.
Later in the day, men’s doubles pairs Manu Atri / Sumeeth Reddy and MR Arjun / Shlok Ramachandran also booked their places in the third round with straightforward wins in opening matches.
Prannoy, ranked 30th in the world at the moment, overcame the legendary Chinese player 21-11, 13-21, 21-7 in 62 minutes while Sai Praneeth defeated Korea’s Lee Dong Keun 21-16, 21-15 in 56 minutes to progress to the round of 16.
Former world No 8 Prannoy came into this match with a 2-2 record against the 35-year-old Lin Dan and a reputation of causing big upsets. And the opening game saw Prannoy dictate the tempo for the large part. After the scores were level at 2-2 early on, Prannoy never lost the lead; in fact, after Prannoy took a 6-2 lead, the closest Lin Dan got to the Indian was at 10-16.
Prannoy needed just one game point to take the opening game in 19 minutes. He was clinical with his game plan, patient while going for the kill and had the speed to hurt Lin Dan whenever he tried to play the toss-and-drop game to frustrate the Indian.
The Chinese legend, seeded 11th at the tournament and ranked 17th in the world, lost the opening game in the first round as well but that saw him tire out his opponent with long, drawn out points. To Prannoy’s advantage in this match, the rallies were shorter and Prannoy’s superior court coverage and powerplay kept Lin Dan on the back-foot in the opening game.
The second game started off to be a tight affair and the five-time champion started showing his class, especially with the drop shots. A flurry of unforced errors from Prannoy helped and allowed Lin Dan to stage a comeback from 2-5 down to take a 10-6 lead in the second game, winning 7 out of 9 nine points in that run. Prannoy was being made to work harder and the Chinese took a 11-8 lead into the interval. The tables had now turned in comparison to the opening game with Lin Dan leading 16-10, and Prannoy visibly frustrated and his shoulders slumped.
The momentum had shifted towards the Chinese star as he wrapped up the second game 21-13.
The decider started well for the Indian shuttler, who was pumped up to begin with, as he opened up a 4-1 lead. Lin Dan threatened to fight back once again but, playing from the same side of the court that saw him dominate the opening game, Prannoy took control the rallies and found the range on his smashes once again to take a significant 11-5 lead into the final change of ends.
Prannoy did not let the momentum slip one bit even from Lin Dan’s favoured side of the court, racing to a 14-5 lead, that saw Prannoy win eight straight points. There was no stopping the Indian after that as he nailed another down-the-line smash to have 13 match points and converted his first.
With this win, Prannoy now has a winning record against Lin Dan (3-2) in his career. The Indian shuttler, who was a late addition to the tournament, will now likely face world No 1 and defending champion Kento Momota in the third round.
Sai Praneeth on a roll
If Prannoy was clinical in the decider against Lin Dan, Sai Praneeth showed why he is so highly rated despite not enough titles in his kitty.
The world No 19 did not start well but once he fought back from a 4-8 deficit in the opening game, there was no looking back.
Sai Praneeth displayed his full range of strokes against the more defensively oriented Lee in the 56 minute encounter as he used the down-the-line smashes and flat flicks to great effect.
The only criticism of Sai Praneeth could be that he allowed Lee opportunities to make a comeback in both the games. To his relief, the Korean could not build on those.
One of the reason for that was definitely Sai Praneeth’s ability to change gears at will.
Having led 10-5 and then 11-7 in the second game, the Indian surprisingly lowered his guard and that allowed Lee to win seven of the nine points to level the scores at 12-12. But Sai Praneeth got his bearing soon after as he took complete control of the rallies and kept them short enough to not put pressure on his fitness.
The point when he used a lift rather than a tap to win a point with Lee on the ground showed his game awareness and it was clear that the Indian was in a different zone.
He will now face the winner of the match between Antony Ginting and Toby Penty.
In the day’s other matches, men’s doubles combination of Sanyam Shukla and Arun George went down 21-18, 21-11 against Japan’s Takuto Inoue and Yuki Kaneko. Pooja Dandu and Sanjana Santosh, the third Indian women’s doubles pair, ranked 46, also lost their first round match against Hsu Ya Ching and Hu Ling Fan of Chinese Taipei, going down 21-15, 21-14 in 33 minutes.
There was good news from the doubles categories after a couple of defeats as experienced Indian pair of Manu Atri and B Sumeeth Reddy took just 26 minutes to beat French pair of Gicquel and Labar 21-13, 21-13 to reach the round of 32. The final match involving Indians saw Arjun MR / Shlok Ramachandran win 21-14, 21-16 against the Swiss wildcard entry of Kuenzi / Schaller in 32 minutes.
World No 1 ousted
In the biggest upset of the tournament so far, world No 1 Akane Yamaguchi was knocked out at the World Championships in the round of 32. Singapore’s Yeo Jia Min (20 years old) stunne Yamaguchi 14-21, 18-21 in just 40 minutes. Yamaguchi did not look fully fit but this was still a stunning result for the youngster and also opens up the women’s singles draw.