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India Open 2024: Satwik-Chirag through to final; Prannoy exits in semis

Braving severe cold conditions prevailing in the Capital, those who made it to the India Open badminton on Saturday night left the Jadhav stadium after 11 pm following a heart-warming performance from the new poster boys of Indian badminton – Chirag Shetty and Satwiksairaj Rankireddy.

The World No. 2 pair produced a fighting performance against fourth-seeded Malaysians Aaron Chia and Soh Wooi Yik, to whom they lost eight successive times before the next two. The 21-18, 21-14 victory made it a hat-trick of triumph. This will be the second final in eight days for the Indians after being the finalist in the Malaysia Open.

After H. S. Prannoy’s disappointing 21-15, 21-5 defeat to World No. 2 Shi Yuqi, Chirag-Satwik’s victory served as a soothing balm for the crowd. They bounced back from 10-13 in the second game to win the last six points soon after a tap from Chirag struck Aaron Chia on the eye.

READ | World No. 1 An Se Young out of India Open after aggravating knee injury

Earlier, Prannoy’s meltdown in the second game of the 42-minute contest cleared Shi Yuqi’s passage to the final against Hong Kong’s unseeded Lee Cheuk Yiu, the conqueror of second-seeded Japanese Kodai Naraoka.

Shi Yuqi, the finalist of the Malaysia Open last Sunday, clearly displayed a better range of strokes. His defence stood firm when it mattered as he looked to finish the point with smashes, drops and flicks.

In contrast, Prannoy appeared more flamboyant. He relied on his jump-smashes and half-smashes to push his rival on the defensive. He did get outfoxed at the net at times, but he trusted his deft dribbles to win points at the net.

The first game was fought on an even keel after Prannoy was first off the blocks. Some deft touches, placements and down-the-line forehand smashes helped Prannoy stay on the heels of the Chinese, who led 11-10 at the mid-game interval.

On resumption, Prannoy kept pace till 14-14 before Shi Yuqi reeled off seven of the last eight points to close the game in 23 minutes.

The second game proved a no-contest. Shi Yuqi carried the momentum gained late in the opening game to break free from 6-3. He produced his range of shots, beat Prannoy for pace and made the Indian grow increasingly exasperated. Eventually, the 21-5 scoreline proved the superiority of the Chinese.

Later, Prannoy was candid about the meltdown from 14-all in the first game. “At that stage, a few points were crucial, and once Shi Yuqi got them, he got back his game. When you are playing these top players, you can’t let them get away. Shi Yuqi is a complete player, and he showed why.

“I don’t want to over-analyse the match right now, but I will look at what he did tonight and learn from it. It was a learning lesson for me. It’s only when you go deep into such tournaments and play these top players you know where you stand.

“I am happy to play my first India Open semifinals, but I wish the scheduling was better. Last night, I played at 9.30 pm, and tonight it was no different. I wish the authorities schedule the semifinals and finals at better times.”

The results (semifinals):

Men singles: 6-Shi Yuqi (Chn) bt 8-H. S. Prannoy 21-15, 21-5; Lee Cheuk Yiu (Hkg) bt 2-Kodai Naraoka (Jpn) 21-13, 15-21, 21-19;

Men doubles: 3-Kang Min Hyuk/Seo Seung Jae (Kor) bt 7-Takuro Hoki/Yugo Kobayashi (Jpn) 21-19, 21-14; 2-Satwiksairaj Rankireddy/Chirag Shetty (Ind) bt 4-Aaron Chia/ Soh Wooi Yik (Mys) 21-18, 21-14

Women singles: 4-Tai Tzu Ying (Tpe) bt Yeo Jia Min (Sin) 21-13, 21-18; 2-Chen Yu Fie (Chn) bt Wang Zhi Yi (Chn) 21-13, 21-18.

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