Denmark Open: Srikanth enters semis; Saina, Prannoy bow out

Saina lost in straight games to Akane Yamaguchi of Japan. Prannoy suffered a similar fate against World No. 1 Son Wan-Ho

Kidambi Srikanth is the only Indian still in contention at the Denmark Open   -  AFP

Kidambi Srikanth knocked out local hero and World champion Viktor Axelsen in men's singles quarterfinals but Saina Nehwal and H.S. Prannoy crashed out with straight game losses in the Denmark Open Super Series Premier, here today.

Srikanth, who had suffered losses against Axelsen in the last three encounters, showed tremendous resilience and mental fortitude to oust the reigning World No. 1 14-21, 22-20, 21-7 in a match that lasted 56 minutes at the Odense Sports Park here.

"This win is a confidence booster for me. I had lost to him at India Open, World Championship and Japan Open and really wanted to win. I took lot of time to get adjusted to the court but I was more patient and curbed my errors. He tried few things in the third game which didn’t materialize," 
Srikanth told PTI.

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Earlier, Saina Nehwal, still exhausted from last night's late match, suffered a 10-21, 13-21 loss to Japan’s World No. 5 Akane Yamaguchi in women' s singles.

"I didn’t get enough time to rest. I've never slept at 3. I was sluggish. But I should say Yamaguchi played really well. I have to prepare more to play back to back tough matches. Anyways can't do much about it. Next is French Open," Saina said.

Prannoy, meanwhile, succumbed to a series of unforced errors, losing 13-21 18-21 to World No. 2 Korean Son Wan-Ho in men's singles.

"I committed too many errors. He hardly won points. I knew I have to be patient with him but I couldn't. It was one of those days when nothing goes right," he said.

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There was a lot of expectation from Axelsen, who was playing at his home. Egged by a vocal crowd, the local hero did make a rampaging start as he zoomed to a 6-1 lead early on and managed to earn a 11-6 advantage at the interval.

Srikanth grabbed six points on the trot but committed too many unforced errors. Axelsen showed ample display of his athleticism as he returned twice from awkward positions to return the shuttle and eventually held seven game points, which he converted after Srikanth’s smash went wide.

The second game started on an even-knell before Srikanth led 5-3 when Axelsen misjudged a shot at the baseline and found the net next. The Indian dominated the parallel game and reached 10-7 with Axelsen faltering with a net dribble.

However, Axelsen produced two powerful smashes which Srikanth failed to negotiate to lead 11-10. The Indian made two good judgements at the baseline and helped by his rival's net error held a 15-14 lead which soon evaporated.

Axelsen again grabbed a two point lead at 18-16 when Srikanth pushed the shuttle long. The Dane went to 19-17 with a net exchange. However, Srikanth managed to grab a 20-19 lead with a smash. A precise on the line smash by Srikanth and a net error by Axelsen finally took the match to the decider.

In the third game, Axelsen surged to 3-1 lead before Srikanth erased the deficit with a jump smash and led 5-3 when his rival went wide and found the net. The Dane continued to commit unforced errors and one such wide return earned Srikanth a healthy 11-4 lead.

After the break, Axelsen simply couldn't keep the shuttle on the court and eventually handed the match to the Indian with two net errors.

A file photo of India's Saina Nehwal in action.

In another men’s singles match, Prannoy and Son Wan split the initial 10 points but then the Indian succumbed to a series of unforced errors as the Korean lead 11-5 at the interval.

His struggle with errors continued after the break as Son Wan moved to a 16-9 lead. Prannoy reached doubles figures when his rival sent the shuttle long and followed it up with a net error. However, the Korean eventually reached the game point when a diving Prannoy failed to retrieve a shot. He then sealed the game when the Indian hit the net next.

In the second game, Prannoy worked hard to build a 8-5 lead, following a series of rallies where the pace changed too frequently as each looked to outdo the other. The Indian extended it to 10-8 before unleashing a body smash to enter the break with three point lead.

However, Son Wan quickly leveled par with three quick points and took the lead with a measured return at his rival's forecourt. Prannoy bounced back at 16-16 before taking a 18-16 lead to let out a cry to pump himself up.

But he blew it with an error in return to serve and then Son Wan took the lead when Prannoy went wide. With the Indian's return going to net again, Son Wan had two match points and he sealed the issue when Prannoy went wide again.

In women’s singles, Saina clearly looked tired and sluggish, and her movement was not up to the mark and she committed too many errors to allow Yamaguchi open up a 11-6 lead. The Indian could hardly do anything after the break as the Japanese walked away with the opening game.

In the second game, Saina tried to pump herself up and had managed to move to 3-3 early on but Yamaguchi put the shuttle in difficult positions which the Indian found difficult to retrieve as the Japanese led 7-4.

Saina managed to turn the tables at 8-7 but Yamaguchi held the slender one point advantage at the break when the Indian hit long. After the break, Yamaguchi stayed a step ahead of the Indian and continued to accumulate points with her better court coverage and stroke play and seal it without much ado in the end. 

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