HS Prannoy went down fighting in the men’s singles quarterfinals against world championships bronze medallist Chou Tien Chen of Chinese Taipei, bringing down the curtains on India’s campaign at the Japan Open on Friday. The 30-year-old Indian played out of his skin and saved three match points, only to endure the agony of losing it in the end, as Chou emerged victorious 21-17 15-21 22-20 in a pulsating contest that lasted an hour and 20 minutes.
One of the most consistent Indian players in the circuit this season, Prannoy recovered well from an opening game reversal, and kept breathing down his opponent’s neck till the last point but, in the end, Chou’s perseverance saw him through in this match at the Super 750 tournament.
Coming into the match after his twin wins against Chou in the last two meetings, Prannoy engaged in a battle of attrition with his rival, and was up 12-8 in the opening game.
However, Chou recovered to turn the tables at 15-14 when Prannoy went to net. The Taiwanese was pumped up as he moved to a two-point advantage after the Indian faltered with his net shot twice.
Another stiff return on his opponent’s backhand ended with Prannoy sending one to the net, and when he put his forehand to the net, there were three game point opportunities for Chou.
A precise cross court return gave Chou the bragging rights.
After the change of sides, Chou again opened up a slender 5-4 lead before a lucky net chord brought it on an even keel. While Chou’s returns got steeper and his attack stronger, Prannoy’s errors piled up as he fell behind 6-10.
Prannoy tried to set the pace of the rallies, and a fantastic rally ended with a lucky net chord for the Indian, who drew parity at 10-10 when Chou faltered at the front court.
However, Chou had his nose ahead at the interval with Prannoy failing to defend a shot on his backhand.
After resumption, Prannoy showed better defence and produced some accurate down-the-line smashes to nose ahead of his opponent, who suddenly committed a series of errors, especially in the front court.
With Prannoy leading 19-14, Chou unleashed a cross-court smash off the Indian’s serve to break the run of play. But Prannoy ensured there were no hiccups as he took the match to the decider with Chou going long.
Prannoy had an erratic start to the decider as he sprayed the shuttle wide to fall behind 1-4. Chou went long thrice before producing a body smash to end a gruelling rally and take a 6-4 lead.
Things didn’t go Prannoy’s way as he struggled to control the shuttle and a series of unforced errors saw Chou take a six-point cushion at the break.
Prannoy constructed the rallies well and precision in his returns, including two delightful cross-court returns, helped him make it 12-13. But once again, unforced errors crept in his game as he went long and to the net, to allow Chou take a 17-14 lead.
The Taiwanese produced a body smash to maintain his three-point lead before gaining three match points chances with the Indian going to net.
Chou went wide twice and Prannoy unleashed a down-the-line smash in between to save the three match points, but he served out next to once again hand his opponent a match point, and he sealed it in his favour when Prannoy went wide.
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