Prannoy smashes, India soar in Thomas Cup
HS Prannoy produced a lion-hearted effort in the decisive fifth match as the India men’s badminton team scripted history on Friday by reaching the title clash of the Thomas Cup for the first time with a 3-2 victory over Denmark in an edge-of-the-seat semi-final here.
India had never gone past the semi-finals after 1979. This year’s team showed tremendous fighting spirit as it came from a match down to outwit the 2016 champions.
India meet Indonesia in the final on Sunday.
While Kidambi Srikanth and Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty kept India in the hunt, it was once again left to HS Prannoy to take the team home when the tie was locked 2-2.
Up against world No. 13 Rasmus Gemke, Prannoy suffered an ankle injury after slipping on the front court while going for a return but the Indian continued after taking a medical timeout.
Prannoy was in pain and his on-court movement also looked restricted but despite all odds, he produced a sensational performance to come up trumps 13-21, 21-9, 21-12 to etch India’s name in the history books.
“Mentally, there were a lot of things going on in my head. After the slip it was hurting and I was not able to lunge properly,” Prannoy said after the tie.
“In my mind, it was always coming that I should not give up, just try and see how it goes. Was praying that the pain doesn’t aggravate and it started to reduce towards the second game and by the third, I was feeling much better.”
A lot rode on Lakshya Sen, given his recent win over Viktor Axelsen at the German Open Super 300, but he couldn’t replicate his performance as the world No. 1 scripted a comfortable 21-13, 21-13 win to hand Denmark a 1-0 lead.
Rankireddy and Shetty dished out a gritty performance, holding their nerve in the final stages to beat Kim Astrup and Mathias Christiansen 21-18, 21-23, 22-20.
With the tie locked 1-1, world No. 11 Srikanth beat world No. 3 Anders Antonsen 21-18, 12-21, 21-15.
Prannoy lost the opening game but, quite incredibly, led 11-1 in the second game despite injury.
In the third game, the Indian was up 11-4 up at the interval. Prannoy grabbed nine match points with a straight down the line smash and sealed it on the second opportunity as teammates huddled in celebration.