On a day when top-seeded China was knocked out by Korea in the men’s competition, India made it to the last-four stage, thanks to a brilliant performance by H. S. Prannoy.
For the second consecutive day, the World No. 27 pulled off a decisive win, with a fluent performance against Soo Teck Zhi, to help India edge out Malaysia 3-2 in the men’s quarterfinal of the Badminton Asia Team Championship, at the Gachibowli Indoor Stadium, here on Friday. The victory also meant that the Indian men’s team qualified for the Thomas Cup in China in May.
Significantly, the Indian women’s team, despite the defeat to Korea, qualified for the Uber Cup by virtue of its current world ranking.
In the men’s section, with India and Malaysia tied two-all, Prannoy brushed aside his opponent’s challenge to script a remarkable 21-12, 22-20 victory in the final match of the contest.
“The pressure was more today because it was a must-win game. And I am really happy with this very, very big win as it helped the team’s cause,” remarked an elated Prannoy. “The conditions were difficult in terms of controlling the shuttle because of the drift factor, so I knew if I could level the scores at around 18 in the second game, I had a chance, for Soo has a tendency to go for the kill and make mistakes,” he added.
Earlier, captain Kidambi Srikanth once again gave India a fluent start with a 21-14, 21-15 win over Zulkiffli Zulfadli in the first men’s singles. The World No. 9 appeared to be in a hurry in the first game before he was slightly rattled by his Malaysian opponent, ranked World No. 38, in the second, as he trailed 6-3 at one stage. Srikanth attributed it to his slow movement, but once he shifted gears, the Indian was more dominant.
In the next match, Manu Attri and B. Sumeeth Reddy, ranked World No. 20, delighted the Indian camp with a brilliant 21-10, 20-22, 21-16 win over Low Juan Shen and Tan Kian Meng. However, India suffered a serious setback in the second singles when World No. 38 Zainuddin Iskandar Zulkarnain shocked World No. 25 Ajay Jayaram, 17-21, 21-12, 21-16.
It was obvious that Jayaram was patchy despite winning the first game. His net game was below par and much to his chagrin, the Malaysian came up with some telling smashes and beautiful drops. Zainuddin was the better player in the next two games, as he had better control and countered the drift well.
With the doubles pair of Pranaav Chopra and Akshay Dewalkar losing to Ong Yew sin and Teo Ee Yi, the focus was on the decider featuring Prannoy, who produced quality display to bring cheer to the Indian camp.
The results — men: India bt Malaysia 3-2 (K. Srikanth bt Zulkiffli Zulfadli 21-14, 21-15; Manu Attri & B. Sumeeth Reddy bt Low Juan Shen & Tan Kian Meng 21-10, 20-22, 21-16; Ajay Jayaram lost to Zainuddin Iskandar Zulkarnain21-17, 12-21, 16-21; Pranaav Chopra & Akshay Dewalkar lost to Ong Yew Sin & Teo Ee Yi 14-21, 21-14, 12-21; H.S. Prannoy bt Soo Teck Zhi 21-12, 22-20); Indonesia bt Hong Kong China 3-0; Japan bt Chinese Taipei 3-0.
Women: Korea bt India 3-0 (Sung Ji Hyun bt P. V. Sindhu 21-13, 21-14; Jung Kyung Eun & Shin Seung Chan bt G. Jwala & Ashwini Ponnappa 21-15, 20-22, 21-13; Bae Yeon Ju bt P. C. Thulasi 21-16, 21-15); China bt Indonesia 3-0; Japan bt Chinese Taipei 3-1; Thailand bt Malaysia 3-0.