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Prannoy enters Malaysian Masters final, Sindhu ousted

Having spent a total of 225 minutes on court in his previous three matches, HS Prannoy seemed headed for another marathon contest as the men’s singles semi-final against Indonesian qualifier Christian Adinata had already logged 27 minutes with the Indian leading 19-17.

HS Prannoy(Twitter)
HS Prannoy(Twitter)

But the world No. 57 suffered a ball fall. Christian’s left knee buckled while attempting an overhead shot and the Indonesian fell in excruciating pain. After a medical timeout, the 2019 world junior champion decided to retire and left the court on a wheelchair, putting Prannoy in the final of the $420,000 Malaysia Masters badminton in Kuala Lumpur on Saturday.

“I heard it is a major issue with the knee. He is a good player and played three good rounds, but the conditions are not easy. They are pretty challenging,” Prannoy said from Kuala Lumpur.

Not the way he would have wanted it, but the world No.9 has entered his first final since the Swiss Open in March 2022, which he lost to Indonesian Jonatan Christie. Sunday will be a brilliant opportunity for Prannoy – he reached his career-best ranking of No.7 this month – to win his first individual title since the 2017 US Open.

The 30-year-old has left no stone unturned to make it happen. He knocked out Chinese Taipei’s sixth seed Chou Tien Chen in an hour and four minutes, All England champion Li Shifeng of China in an hour and 10 minutes and Spain Masters champion Kenta Nishimoto of Japan in an incredible one hour and 31 minutes in previous rounds.

“Getting old but still trying to manage it,” laughed the seasoned shuttler, who hails from Thiruvananthapuram. “It is challenging but I am liking it; the physicality. Of course, you have to be cautious with these lengthy matches.”

With form on his side, Prannoy has enjoyed a solid run in the last year or so. He reached the final of the Swiss Open last year and then played a crucial part in guiding India to a historic first Thomas Cup triumph in Bangkok in May 2022. Though he has not won tournaments since then, Prannoy has regularly beaten the best in the business, which catapulted him back into the top 10 in December 2022 – a position he has not lost till now. His consistent performances have made him India’s top ranked player – above former world No.1 Kidambi Srikanth and Commonwealth Games champion Lakshya Sen.

“It’s been decent… actually good so far, the past 12 months. The challenge is to be able to deliver consistent performances. Playing so many tournaments, being on the tour throughout the year, is tough. You have to take care of fitness, you have to remain injury-free. I have a good team around me; coaches, physios, who are helping me, which is why I have been able to play such long matches,” said Prannoy.

Prannoy faces China’s Weng Hongyang in the Super 500 final at the Axiata Arena. Last year, Weng, the world No.34, won bronze at the Asian Championships, following it up with the Korea Open title. This is his first final of the year, which will also be his first match against Prannoy.

“He is a newbie. He has had some good results. We will see what happens tomorrow but I am ready for the final,” said Prannoy.

Sindhu loses in semis

It was the end of the road for PV Sindhu, who lost in straight games to Indonesian seventh seed Gregoria Mariska Tunjung in the women’s singles semi-final. While the sixth seeded Indian had a 7-1 record against the world No.9, Sindhu’s first loss against Gregoria had come in their last meeting which was the Spain Masters final in April.

On Saturday, Gregoria picked up from where she left in Madrid, where she decimated Sindhu 21-8, 21-8. This time the scoreline against the former world champion read 21-14, 21-17 in 44 minutes.

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