Akshay-Pranaav stun World No. 7 pair; Srikanth breezes to final

Seldom does an Indian men’s doubles pair gives the home crowd reasons to rejoice. Saturday was one such rare occasion when Akshay Dewalkar and Pranaav Chopra performed way over their World ranking of 36 to stun two-time World championship bronze medallist Korea’s Kim Gi Jung and Kim Sa Rang.

In an enthralling contest lasting 64 minutes, Akshay (right) and Pranaav did not let down the screaming spectators to carve out a 25-23, 13-21, 21-17 triumph.   -  Rajeev Bhatt

Seldom does an Indian men’s doubles pair gives the home crowd reasons to rejoice.

Saturday was one such rare occasion when Akshay Dewalkar and Pranaav Chopra performed way over their World ranking of 36 to stun two-time World championship bronze medallist Korea’s Kim Gi Jung and Kim Sa Rang to gate-crashed into the final of the USD 120,000 Syed Modi International badminton championship here.

In an enthralling contest lasting 64 minutes, Akshay and Pranaav did not let down the screaming spectators to carve out a 25-23, 13-21, 21-17 triumph.

Rollercoaster of emotions

After the sixth seeded ladies pair of G. Jwala and Ashwini Ponnappa surrendered to second seeds from Korea, Akshay and Pranaav brought the crowd on their feet for a thrilling finale to the day’s action.

In this fast-paced battle, the Indians saved two game-points in the opening game and converted their third to take the lead. After the Koreans bounced back strongly to force the decider, Akshay and Pranaav stayed ahead for the better part and eventually broke away from 16-17 to race away to a memorable triumph.

When Kim Sa Rang netted a return from close on the first match-point, Akshay and Pranaav lay sprawling on the court as the vociferous-crowd erupted one last time. An exasperated Kim Sa Rang, who was shown a yellow card for throwing his racquet after the loss, was unable to deal with the defeat. Filled with frustration, the Korean soon found his way to the room adjacent to the Media Centre and smashed his set of racquets.

Turnaround

For last year’s semi-finalists Akshay and Pranaav, the victory also signalled their maiden entry into the title-clash of a Grand Prix Gold event. Unable to win even a game in three previous encounters against the famed Korean pair, the Indians exhibited tremendous self-belief of way to biggest triumph of their chequered career.

In the final, Akshay and Pranaav face unseeded Malaysians V Shem Goh and Wee Kiong Tan who ousted Olympic silver medallist, defending champion and top-seeded Danish pair of Mathias Boe and Carsten Mogensen 21-16, 21-18.

Srikanth breezes to the final

Earlier, aided by some error-filled display from Boonsak Pansana, top seed K. Srikanth emerged as an easy 21-14, 21-7 winner and took his allotted place in the men’s singles final.

After an energy-sapping quarterfinal on Friday evening, Srikanth produced a far-improved performance that was made to look even better as the 11th-seeded Thai played way below his strength. Srikanth, having established leads of 16-6 in the first game and 16-7 in the second, stayed in cruise mode during the 32-minute no-contest.

In the final, the ninth-ranked Srikanth faces Huang Yuxiang, whom he had defeated in straight games on way to the Malaysia Masters title last Sunday.

In the other semi-final, featuring two unseeded Chinese, 73rd ranked Yuxiang saved a match-point in the second game to overpower 108th-placed Shi Yuqi 7-21, 22-20, 21-12 and avenged the loss suffered in the qualifying rounds of China Open in November last year.

In the women’s singles, second seeded Korean Sung Ji Hyun and fifth seeded Japanese Sayaka Sato won as expected to set up the title-clash.

The results (semi-finals, prefix denotes seeding):

Men singles: 1-K Srikanth bt 11-Boonsak Ponsana (Tha) 21-14, 21-7; Huang Yuxiang (Chn) bt Shi Yuqi (Chn) 17-21, 22-20, 21-12.

Women singles: 5-Sayaka Sato (Jpn) bt Porntip Buranaprasertsuk (Tha) 21-15, 21-17; 2-Sung Ji Hyun (Kor) bt Nitchapon Jindapol (Tha) 21-16, 21-8.

Men doubles: V. Shem Goh and Wee Kiong Tan (Mal) bt 1-Mathias Boe and Carsten Mogensen (Den) 21-16, 21-18; Pranav Chopra and Akshay Dewalkar bt 2-Kim Gi Jung and Kim Sa Rang 25-23, 13-21, 21-17.

Women doubles: 3-Eefje Muskens and Selena Piek (Ned) bt 1-Chang Ye Na and Lee So Hee (Kor) 21-17, 21-8.; 2-Jung Kyung Eun and Shin Seung Chan (Kor) bt 6-G. Jwala and Ashwini Ponnnappa 21-14, 21-16.

Mixed doubles: Puavaranukroh Dechapol and Sapsiree Taerattanachai (Tha) bt Kenta Kazuno and Ayane Kurihara 19-21, 21-9, 21-17; 2-Praveen Jordan and Debby Susanto (Ina) bt 3-Shin Baek Cheol and Chae Yoo Jung (Kor) 18-21, 21-11, 21-16.