India’s HS Prannoy showed nerves of steel, advancing to his third successive quarterfinals at the World Championships with a fighting three-game win over former champion Loh Kean Yew of Singapore here on Thursday. World number 9 Prannoy, who won the Malaysia Masters and finished runner-up at the Australian Open this season, once again displayed his sterling fighting qualities during his 21-18 15-21 21-19 win over the seventh-seeded Loh at the Royal Arena.
The 31-year-old from Kerala will face the winner of the match between world number one Viktor Axelsen and Chinese Taipei’‘s Chou Tien Chen in the last eight stage.
The world number two pair of Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty, which had claimed a maiden bronze in the last edition, also stood one step away from another World Championships medal after they beat Indonesia’s Leo Rolly Carnando and Daniel Marthin, ranked 10th, 21-15 19-21 21-9 in the round of 16 match.
The Commonwealth Games champions, who won four titles this season, will meet 11th seeds Kim Astrup and Anders Skaarup Rasmussen of Denmark next. The Indian duo has lost five times to the Danish pair, including the last meeting at the World Tour Finals in 2021.
World number 11 Lakshya Sen, a winner of a bronze medal at the 2021 edition, however, couldn’t get past Thailand’s Kunlavut Vitidsarn, going down 14-21 21-16 13-21 to bow out of the tournament.
Earlier, the women’s doubles pair of Treesa Jolly and Gayatri Gopichand couldn’t sustain the attack and went down 14-21 9-21 in 42 minutes against the top-seeded Chinese duo of Chen Qing Chen and Jia Yi Fan.
In one of the best matches of the tournament so far, Prannoy and Loh fought like gladiators but it was the Indian who refused to give up in the end.
After a sedate start, Prannoy slowly found his feet and moved to 6-7 with a cross-court return after his rival hit the net.
The Indian mixed his shots to claw his way back at 8-8. But Loh ensured a three-point advantage at the interval.
A deceptive block at the net and a lucky net chord helped Prannoy to draw level at 13-13.
The speedy Singaporean played some extraordinary shots and looked to step up the pace but Prannoy stayed in the fast-paced rallies and pounced on any openings offered by Loh.
As a result, Prannoy moved to 19-16 and grabbed three game points before converting in the second attempt. Loh opened up a 6-3 lead again after the change of sides. The Indian, however, managed to make it 7-8 but Loh again grabbed an 11-8 lead.
After two quick points, Loh hit long and wide and sprayed into the net and Prannoy pushed one at the backline to make it 12-13. He drew parity once Loh went long again.
However, Loh enjoyed a run of points to move to 19-14 in a jiffy and took the match to the decider after Prannoy hit wide twice.
Prannoy turned the heat on from the onset of the third game, collecting a series of winners to go 4-0 up. The Singaporean was too erratic as he trailed 3-9. Soon, the Indian grabbed a seven-point advantage at the break.
After resumption, Loh stepped up the attack and produced some exquisite smashes to reel off five straight points. Prannoy unleashed two powerful smashes before sending one looping at the backline to move to 14-10.
The Singaporean then scripted a sterling fightback, producing a fast, aggressive play to take a 15-14 lead.
A calm Prannoy, however, produced a precise smash to make it 16-16 and then went for a flick serve which his opponent sprayed into the net.
Loh faltered at the net again as Prannoy led 19-17. A cross court on Prannoy’s forehand followed by a superb block at the net helped the Singaporean make it 19-all.
However, Prannoy’s precise return landed on the line to give him a match point and he sealed it when Loh went to net from the backline. In the men’s doubles match, Satwik and Chirag showed great anticipation and execution to dish out an attacking game. Chirag was superb with his interceptions as he glided through the court and punished any weak returns from their rivals.
The Indian pair had a slow start but Chirag and Satwik soon stepped up, raining down their cross court returns. Soon, Satwik unleashed his explosive smash to grab a three-point lead at the breather.
The Indonesians tried to fight back with a couple of points but could not break the strong defence of the Indians, who quickly extended the lead to 15-10.
Satwik and Chirag kept the pressure and dominated the flat, cross exchanges. A booming backhand gave the Indians six game points. The Indonesians saved one before spraying the serve into the net.
In the second game, Marthin and Carnando managed to lead 2-1 but they couldn’t build up the pressure with Satwik unleashing his booming smash to move to 5-5. The Indians took an 11-8 lead at the interval again.
The momentum shifted after the break with Marthin and Carnando reeling off six straight points to take a lead with the former showing some good interception. The Indonesians started extending the rallies and soon they were level at 18-18. In the end, the Indonesians produced two winners to roar back into the contest.
In the decider, the Indians dished out a dominating game after being locked at 4-4 at one stage to take a five-point cushion at the break.
Upon resumption, the Indians ran away with the match with the Indonesians committing too many errors.
One such hit into the net gave 12 match points to the Indians and Satwik ended the agony of their rivals with another cross court return.
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