HS Prannoy bowed out of the men’s singles event at Malaysia Open after losing 16-21, 21-19, 10-21 to Japan’s Kodai Naraoka in the quarterfinal on Friday.
The match lasted 84 minutes. It was Naraoka’s third win over the Indian in as many meetings. He had beaten Prannoy in three games at the Singapore Open and World Tour Finals last year.
Prannoy played some crisp winners and showed his delicate touch at the net to recover from the opening game reversal. But his younger rival managed to keep things under control in the decider as the Indian succumbed to a heap of unforced errors.
Naraoka, who came into the match after knocking out home favourites second seed Lee Zii Jia and Ng Tze Yong, showed exceptional recovery as he retrieved everything thrown at him, making Prannoy work extra hard for his points.
The opening game was level 7-7 as the two displayed some breathtaking retrieving in the energy-sapping rallies. Naroaka eked out a two-point lead at the interval and managed to keep the pressure to earn the bragging rights.
In the second game, Prannoy tried to engage his opponent in long rallies, using tosses and clears and looked to finish with smashes. It worked briefly, as he led 13-9, but Naraoka drew parity with four straight points after the Indian committed some errors.
Prannoy tried to keep the rallies tight and flat across the net, but Naraoka again levelled at 16-16 before moving to lead with a net kill. A weak net return negated a towering smash from Prannoy as the status quo was maintained at 18-18.
However, a precise return and a cross-court smash in the nick of time gave the Indian two game points. Prannoy sent one wide before another superb rally ended, with the Japanese sending out the shuttle as the match went into the decider.
Prannoy had some discomfort in his foot at the start of the third game, which started on an even keel before Naraoka produced two sensational shots at the net to win a tight rally and eke out a slender 5-3 lead.
The Japanese dominated the rallies while Prannoy erred with his line to fall five points behind at the interval.
As the match wore on, Prannoy’s accuracy suffered as he missed the lines on both flanks, allowing Naraoka to move to a 14-6 lead. The Japanese was more patient in the rallies and pounced on any little opportunity to keep moving ahead.
At 7-17, the Indian unleashed a straight smash to break the run of points, but a string of errors from a tired-looking Prannoy handed his opponent 12 match points.
Naraoka sealed it in his third attempt with a body smash.
Earlier, on his way to the quarters, World No. 8 Prannoy had lived up to his new status as India No 1 men’s singles player with a 22-24, 21-12, 21-18 victory over Lakshya Sen, ranked 10th, in an edgy encounter that lasted just over an hour.
Prannoy then beat Indonesia’s Chico Aura Dwi Wardoyo 21-9 15-21 21-16 in an hour and four minutes.
Meanwhile, in the women’s singles at Malaysia Open, sixth seed PV Sindhu, playing her first match since a stress fracture on her left ankle en route the Commonwealth Games gold in August, lost 12-21, 10-21, 15-21 to Marin of Spain in 59 minutes.