Prannoy battles his way to Asian Games medal, Sindhu bows out in quarterfinals - Hindustan Times
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Prannoy battles his way to Asian Games medal, Sindhu bows out in quarterfinals

PTI |
Oct 05, 2023 03:12 PM IST

Prannoy battled severe back spasms to outshine Malaysia's Lee Zii Jia 21-16 21-23 22-20 in the quarterfinals to assure India a second badminton medal

A valiant HS Prannoy battled his way to the semifinals, becoming only the first Indian in 41 years to win a badminton medal in men's singles at the Asian Games but it was curtains for PV Sindhu in women's singles here on Thursday.

India's HS Prannoy in action against Malaysia's Lee Zii Jia during the Men's Singles Quarterfinal badminton match at the 19th Asian Games.(PTI)
India's HS Prannoy in action against Malaysia's Lee Zii Jia during the Men's Singles Quarterfinal badminton match at the 19th Asian Games.(PTI)

Playing with a taping on his lower back and a belt under his shirt, Prannoy battled severe back spasms to dish out a performance for the ages, outshining Malaysia's Lee Zii Jia 21-16 21-23 22-20 in the quarterfinals to assure India a second badminton medal at the ongoing Games.

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India had won a silver in men's team championships last Sunday.

"I think it was a really tough one out there. I think Lee is always a tough opponent. It was a very physical match today for me," Prannoy said after the match.

"I'm not at all in a condition where I could say I'm 80 per cent right. But I think to pull off something like this, I would give a lot of credit to myself. I think the will to fight was always there. So I think that paid off."After fighting his way through a marathon 78-minute contest, the 31-year-old from Kerala fell on the court in disbelief. He then removed his shirt, fist-pumped and ran into the arms of chief coach Pullela Gopichand.

Prannoy thus ended India's long wait for a men's singles medal at the Asian Games with Syed Modi winning the first -- a bronze -- at the 1982 edition in New Delhi.

The world championships bronze medallist was ruled out of team championships final due to a back injury as India went down 2-3 to China to settle for a silver.

"It is affecting me. But that's how sport is. You can't be 100 per cent every day. But you have to learn to pull off matches even when you're 60 or 70 per cent. I think today was one of those days when I had to do that," he said.

While it was ecstasy for Prannoy, Sindhu had to endure the pain of returning without a medal for the first time in nine years after she lost 16-21 12-21 to world No.5 Chinese He Bingjiao in 47 minutes to bow out of the competition.

Prannoy displayed his mental fortitude as he rallied his way from a 5-11 deficit to grab the opening game and then had two match points in the second only to see it slip away.

But Prannoy quickly wiped the slate clean and once again fought his way back in the decider, saving two match points with his booming smashes and deceptions to register a great victory.

Prannoy had beaten Lee, a former All England Champion, at the Badminton Asia Championships in Dubai but he didn't have a good start.

However, the Indian managed to erase a six-point deficit at the break to grab four game points with Lee faltering with his length and going long and wide. He converted at the first chance.

Prannoy used his drops and deceptions to vary the pace of the rallies and lead 7-4 before taking a two-point lead at the interval. Lee fought his way to a 15-13 lead before the Indian regained his lead with three successive points and soon stood just two points away from a win at 20-18.

However, a couple of net cords went the Malaysian's way as Lee drew level and earned a game point at 22-21. He took the match to the decider after Prannoy found the net.

Prannoy lagged 2-4 early in the third game. He then tried to prolong the rallies with deep tosses but he lacked the finishing, often hitting the net or wide as Lee lead 7-4.

However, he once again scripted a recovery to claw back at 8-8 before Lee committed few unforced errors as the Indian lead 11-10 at the break.

A perfect net shot after a long rally took Prannoy to 13-10. Two deep smashes on both sides took him to 15-13. But Lee kept breathing down his neck and made it 16-16. Struggling with his back, Prannoy then called for a medical time out for applying the magic spray. On resumption, Lee stepped up the pace and unleashed a body smash and another smash on Prannoy's backhand to pull away.

A long rally ensued at 18-19 as Lee came up with a smash to gain two match points. Prannoy then sent two accurate cross hits to make it 20-20. He then gained one match point and converted with another precise smash.

Earlier in the day, two-time Olympic medallist Sindhu, who had won bronze and silver medals respectively in the 2014 Incheon and 2018 Jakarta Asian Games, couldn't produce the goods against Bingjiao, whom she had defeated to win the bronze at the Tokyo Olympics.

The first game started on an even keel between the two players as both shared points till six-all before Bingjiao took a 9-5 lead.

Sindhu struggled with her court coverage as Bingjiao made the Indian run the entire court and sealed the points with accurate placements and smashes to seal the first game easily in 23 minutes.

Her struggle continued in the next game as Bingjiao took a 5-1 lead.

The star Indian shuttler's returns were short and Bingjiao made no mistake in closing out the points with pinpoint smashes.

Sindhu showed some fight initially in the second game to close the gap at 8-9 with four straight points before the Chinese took control of the game and raced to a 12-8 lead.

Sindhu was nowhere to be seen thereafter and looked to have surrendered as Bingjiao closed out the game and match in quick time.

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