Consistency now his ally, HS Prannoy enters second final of year - Hindustan Times

Consistency now his ally, HS Prannoy enters second final of year

By, New Delhi
Aug 05, 2023 09:58 PM IST

The 31-year-old beat compatriot Priyanshu Rajawat in straight games to enter the final of the Australian Open badminton tournament

HS Prannoy has always had the game, talent and weapons to succeed amid the intense competition in world badminton. He would beat Lin Dan, Lee Chong Wei and Chen Long to earn the title of giant-killer, yet if you look at his career highlights, it is dotted with few finals and even fewer titles.

Prannoy H. S. of India hits a return against Priyanshu Rajawat of India during their men's singles semi final match on day five of the Australia Open badminton tournament(AFP)
Prannoy H. S. of India hits a return against Priyanshu Rajawat of India during their men's singles semi final match on day five of the Australia Open badminton tournament(AFP)

But the seasoned player is ageing like fine wine. “Not like, but I am (fine wine),” laughed the 31-year-old. At an age where several shuttlers reach the twilight of their careers, the world No.9 is scaling the heights of success.

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Having reached the Swiss Open final and driven India to their biggest success in the sport with the Thomas Cup crown last year, Prannoy ended a six-year wait in May when he won the Malaysia Masters. On Saturday, he entered his second final of 2023 after beating fellow Thomas Cup champion Priyanshu Rajawat 21-18, 21-12 in 43 minutes in the semifinals of the $420,000 Australian Open.

While he had all the tools in his bag, consistency eluded him almost forever, something Prannoy has stitched together regularly of late. “It is very satisfying. It is always tough to be playing at the top, continuously beating top 10 players. Not just the top 10, in men's singles even somebody from No.35-40 is also very tough. Considering that, the last two years have been really good for me. I have consistently been able to pull through and win matches. That has given me a lot of confidence. This year has been special," said Prannoy.

While Priyanshu, who won the Orleans Masters in April, had relatively easier outings in the week spending less time on court at the State Sports Centre in Sydney, all of Prannoy’s previous matches stretched beyond the hour mark, especially the quarter-final when he pulled off a sensational victory by knocking out Indonesian top seed Anthony Sinisuka Ginting.

There was a lot in common between the two semi-finalists. Both Pullela Gopichand proteges. Both teammates in the Thomas Cup-winning team. Both playing their best badminton. But one experienced, the other up-and-coming.

Prannoy played his shots from the start as Priyanshu made uncharacteristic errors. While the sixth seed always kept his lead, Priyanshu did not let Prannoy extend the gap, closing in and levelling the contest each time with deceptive net play. Prannoy, on the other hand, used crosscourt smashes to his advantage, going one way and then the other to stretch Priyanshu, making him work more than he did all week in the Super 500 tournament. Prannoy’s tactics were enough to close out the first game and put one foot in the final.

Since it was an all-India affair, there was no courtside assistance from coaches for either player, like always, during the breaks.

Prannoy restarted proceedings by immediately pulling away to establish a gap in the second game. The world No.9 showed his experience to ease the pressure built by Priyanshu every time the younger player looked like closing in, going into the mid-game interval 11-7 ahead.

Neither was rushing in -- playing the slow, patient and waiting game. That helped Prannoy as he is known for his endurance, having played several marathons in his long career. He started dictating the proceedings towards the end as Priyanshu ran out of steam. Prannoy wrapped up the contest with ease and accepted the congratulations from a smiling Priyanshu at the net.

“I deserve a lot of credit because I was ready to accept change and try new things, to give them a chance. My team has been providing inputs that have helped me. Coaches Gopi (Gopichand) sir and Guru (RMV Gurusaidutt), the physios and trainer, they have worked as hard as I have. It’s a team effort. I hope we can find solutions for each and every tournament and keep going," said Prannoy.

He was also full of praise for his young compatriot who was looking to make his second final of the year.

“Priyanshu has been playing really good badminton for the last 7-8 months. Here too, to get to the semis is not easy. He is a tricky opponent who has got big smashes. You have to be very patient against these kinds of players. Skill-wise, he is way ahead of me. It was important for me to be composed and stay with him, keep getting the shuttles in. That was the only aim,” said Prannoy after taking his head-to-head record against Priyanshu to 2-0.

The sixth seed faces Chinese world No.24 Weng Hongyang in a repeat of the Malaysia Masters final, where Prannoy needed three games and 94 minutes for victory in their first meeting. Prannoy will look to become only the third Indian to win the Australian Open, after Saina Nehwal (2014, 2016) and Kidambi Srikanth (2017).

“Weng is someone who is very tricky. He can play those big matches. The last six months he has beaten a lot of big names, so it will not be easy. Especially being a left-hander, he has an advantage. I will go all out tomorrow and hope I probably do something like I did in Malaysia,” said Prannoy.

This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text.
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    From badminton to cricket, Sandip Sikdar writes on many sporting disciplines. He has the experience of working in digital, news agency as well as print organisations. Motorsport remains his first love.

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