Star Indian shuttler HS Prannoy breezed into the quarterfinals with a stunning straight-game win over former world champion Loh Kean Yew of Singapore but it was curtains for Kidambi Srikanth at the Japan Open Super 750 tournament here on Thursday. A former world number 8, Prannoy, who had reached the quarterfinals of the world championships last week, continued his rampaging run as he saw off eighth seeded Loh 22-20 21-19 in a 44-minute second round men’s singles match. This was Prannoy’s third win over the world number 7 Singaporean in four meetings.
The 30-year-old Indian will next face Chinese Taipei’s Chou Tien Chen, who won the bronze medal at the world championships last week, in the quarterfinal stage.
Prannoy, currently ranked world number 18, has beaten Chen in their last two meetings, but overall, he is 3-4 behind.
Srikanth, who had shocked world number 5 Malaysian Lee Zii Jia on Wednesday, however, couldn’t extend his run as he went down 10-21 16-21 to local favourite and world number 17 Kanta Tsuneyama.
The Japanese had defeated Srikanth at the Korean Open in 2019 in their only meeting prior to this.
In a battle between two highly-skilled gladiators, it was Prannoy who showed nerves of steel as he fought back from 11-19 and 6-14 down in the two games to come up trumps against his young rival.
Prannoy made a good start but quickly lost momentum with his opponent recording five straight points from 7-8 to move to a 11-8 lead at the break.
Loh continued to dominate the rallies after resumption with his fast-paced game helping him to sit comfortably at 19-11 at one stage.
But Prannoy had other ideas. The Indian soon produced a six-point burst to draw parity at 17-17, and even though Loh grabbed three game points, the Singaporean erred twice with his backhands going to the net. Then, Prannoy reeled off the remaining points to earn the bragging rights.
In the second game, Loh once again came out with all cylinders blazing to zoom to a 11-4 advantage. He rode on short rallies, while the Indian faltered with his length as his cross-court returns went wide.
But Prannoy showed his steely resolve as he soon scripted a brilliant recovery to claw back at 16-16 after a net exchange.
Prannoy tried to take off the pace in the rallies and make Loh move around with his angled returns. He also produced some solid body attacks, which Loh couldn’t negotiate, and his net play was also superior than his opponent.
The Indian soon grabbed two match points. Loh saved one before sailing wide as Prannoy continued to impress with his never-say-die attitude.
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