Singapore Super Series: Srikanth, Sai Praneeth in historic all-Indian final

India became the fourth nation to send two men into the title-clash of a BWF super series event.

Sai Praneeth of India reacts after defeating South Korea's Lee Dong Keun in their men's singles semifinal of the Singapore Open.   -  AFP

With K. Srikanth and B. Sai Praneeth reaching the men singles final of the $350,000 Singapore Open on Saturday, history was made with India becoming only the fourth nation to send two men into the title-clash of a BWF super series event.

Battling fitness issues and form, Srikanth, made his first final in two years after getting the better of Indonesia’s Anthony Sinisuka Ginting 21-13, 21-14 in 42 minutes after Sai raced past Korea’s Lee Dong Keun 21-6, 21-8 in another one-sided semifinal, in 38 minutes.

These victories saw India join China, Indonesia and Denmark as the nations to have both finalists in singles of a super series. But, what makes the feat all the more special is, both Indians are unseeded.

On Sunday, 29th-ranked Srikanth will be looking for his third super series title against the 30th-ranked Sai, playing his first final at this level. Interestingly, Sai holds a 4-1 head-to-head advantage, having tamed Srikanth in their last encounter in the Syed Modi Grand Prix event in Lucknow in January this year.

The semifinals saw Sai dominate the unseeded Korean, who was upbeat after beating seventh seed Ng Ka Long Angus of Hong Kong. Sai took a 10-0 lead in the opening game and won the last five points to close the contest in style.

Srikanth sent out the fourth-strongest Indonesian, who advanced after beating Hong Kong’s Wong Wing Ki Vincent — the conqueror of third seed Viktor Axelsen in the opening round. Down 4-9, Srikanth won 12 of the next 13 points to lead 16-10 and never trailed again in the match. He controlled the net better in the first game but once the Indonesian saw through his deceptive play, resorted to aggressive smashes, on both flanks, in the second game to emerge a comfortable winner.

At the start of the week, the last-minute withdrawal of the top seed Jan O Jorgensen (Denmark) and second seeded Olympic champion Chen Long (China) helped the two Indians. After all, Sai was drawn to play Jorgensen in the first round while Srikanth faced the prospects of meeting Chen Long in the second round.

As the event progressed, the two Indians faced only one seeded rival each – in the quarterfinals – on their way to the title-clash. Srikanth defeated Chinese fifth seed Shi Yuqi while Sai took out eighth seeded Thai Tanongsak Saensomboonsuk.