Malaysia Masters: Prannoy seals semifinal spot, Sindhu once again fails to crack Tai Tzu code

PTI, Jul 8, 2022, 7:23 PM IST

Image credit: AFP / BAI / File

Kuala Lumpur: A fighting HS Prannoy edged out Japan’s Kanta Tsuneyama to progress to the semifinals but two-time Olympic medallist P V Sindhu couldn’t find a way to get past her nemesis Tai Tzu Ying at the Malaysia Masters Super 500 tournament here on Friday.

Prannoy, a former top 10 player, continued his consistent run and weathered the storm against world number 14 Tsuneyama to emerge victories 25-23 22-20 in the 60-minute quarterfinal clash, which ebbed and flowed throughout.

One of the heroes of India’s monumental Thomas Cup win in May, Prannoy will face Hong Kong’s NG Ka Long Angus, seeded 8th, in the last four.

A week after being outwitted by Tai Tzu Ying at Malaysia Open, seventh seed Sindhu once again fell short against the world No. 2 Taiwanese, losing 13-21 21-12 12-21 in a 55-minute contest.

It was Sindhu’s 17th career defeat to the Tokyo Olympics silver medallist, who has prevailed over the Indian in all their last seven meetings. The last time Sindhu had defeated Tzu Ying was en route to her 2019 World Championship gold in Basel, Switzerland.

The men’s singles contest turned out to be a game of cat and mouse as the two highly-skilled players engaged in a battle of one-upmanship, with Prannoy showing better nerves as he saved game points twice to come up trumps against Tsuneyama.

Prannoy, who enjoyed a 2-1 head-to-head count, pounced on the chances early on to erase a slender 1-2 deficit, but the match was a tight affair as the duo moved from 3-3 to 10-10 following some short but attacking rallies in the opening game.

Tsuneyama produced some stiff angled returns and jump smashes to trouble his opponent, while Prannoy constructed his rallies well and kept the shuttle close to the line. Eventually a perfect judgement on the baseline gave the Indian a slender one-point advantage at the break.

Prannoy was rewarded for his razor-sharp precision as he eked out a 17-14 lead after his rival had grabbed four points to keep up with the Indian.

Tsuneyama scripted another recovery as he grabbed a game-point opportunity after Prannoy went to the net twice.

An on-rushing Prannoy saved one with a backhand flick and then unleashed an over-the-head return to move to a game-point advantage.

Prannoy, then, converted his fourth game point chance with the finest of margin, with the shuttle kissing the line.

After the change of sides, the duo were 4-4 when Prannoy took a medical timeout to address an issue with his foot. After resumption, he was 9-6 up.

However, Tsuneyama started dominating the rallies with his diagonal returns and moved to the break with a two-point cushion.

Prannoy pocketed four straight points to move to 13-11. A magnificent jump smash took him to 14-14, before he won a 34-point rally with another precise smash. The Japanese again eked out an 18-16 lead before an off balance Prannoy sent another one out.

Tsuneyama soon had two game point opportunities, but Prannoy saved both and earned a match point, with the Japanese going to the net. He threw a fist pump in the air after Tsuneyama went long.

In the women’s competition, it was business as usual for Tzu Ying as she rode her precision and deceptive game to get past Sindhu, who once again flattered to deceive.

Tzu Ying made her intent clear from the start and, after an initial close duel, she managed to pull away from 10-9 to jump to 15-9, and held her fort to take lead in the match.

After the change of ends, Sindhu seemed to find her bearings as she galloped to a 11-4 lead and then kept a firm grip on the rallies to roar back into the contest.

The Indian carried her momentum into the decider, leading 7-3 at one stage, and, for a moment, it seemed like she has cracked the Tzu Ying code. But the second seed once again managed to turn the tables around, grabbing a two-point cushion at the final break.

It was a one-way traffic after the interval as Sindhu’s unforced errors coupled with her rival’s brilliance saw the match tilt completely in favour of Tzu Ying, who zoomed to 19-11.

Another rally ended with the shuttle dropping right on the baseline as Tzu Ying held eight match points and converted it when Sindhu went to the net again.

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