India Stun Malaysia to Enter Semifinals of Thomas Cup
Indian men’s badminton team’s HS Prannoy celebrates with fellow players after sealing the Thomas Cup quarterfinal tie against Malaysia in Bangkok on Thursday (Pic: Prannoy, Twitter).
The Indian men’s badminton edged out Malaysia to enter the semifinals of the Thomas Cup, their first final four appearance in 43 years. India, led by Kidambi Srikanth and HS Prannoy, both of whom notched up crucial victories alongside the doubles pair of Chirag Shetty-Satwiksairaj Rankireddy, beat the highly rated Malaysians 3-2 in Bangkok on Thursday, May 12.
The victory is a testament to the depth in the men’s side with three singles players in the top 20 in the world, and the lead doubles pair in the top 10. Something the women’s side lacks, especially after the fading of Saina Nehwal, who skipped the trials for Uber Cup and was not selected. The inexperience in the ranks was one major factor for the women, while PV Sindhu, whose performance was crucial to the fortunes of the side, was off colour as well.
The day began on a disappointing note at the Impact Arena for the Indian camp with the women’s team getting knocked out, losing 0-3 to hosts Thailand in the quarterfinals of the Uber Cup.
The men, however, made amends with scintillating performances that took the tie to the wire
The quarterfinal began with India being pushed on the backfoot. Lakshya Sen, the country’s highest-ranked men’s singles player at world No. 9, lost the opening rubber to world No. 6 Lee Zii Jia.
Sen, who is in the middle of a purple patch, had beaten Lee on the two occasions they faced each other prior to Thursday, including the semifinal of the All England Championships in March this year. While the numbers, and momentum, tilted the scales in Sen’s favour, on court, Lee’s experience made the difference. The Malaysian came from behind to win the tight first game. That unsettled Sen and from then on he was never really in the match. Lee dominated the next, winning the match 23-21, 21-9.
Shetty and Rankireddy, however, reeled things back for India in the second fixture. Facing the formidable and in-form Goh Sze Fei and Nur Izzuddin, Chirag-Satwik took the fight to the opponents, playing to a high-intensity strategy in the opening game. It was a point-to-point affair which the Indians managed to win 21-19. The second game went as per the script as the opening one. But, at 14-14, the Indian pair pocketed seven points while giving away just one to seal the game 21-15.
With things on level terms, it was upto Srikanth to give India the lead in the singles match. The silver medallist from the world championships last year did justice to the formbook, seeing off NG Tze Yong with ease.
Srikanth faced very little resistance from the young Malaysian in the opening game. He was made to sweat for points in the second but eventually his form and experience helped him sail through 21-11, 21-17.
Malaysia levelled the tie again in the fourth rubber though. The doubles pair of Krishna Prasad and Vishnuvardhan Panjala went down 19-21, 17-21 to Aaron Chia and Teo Ee Yi.
It was all down to the final singles tie where Prannoy faced Leong Jun Hao. In the high-pressure match, the Malaysian crumbled, making plenty of errors, while Prannoy piled on with some aggressive yet precise kills and placements to win 21-13, 21-8.
India were semifinalists at Thomas Cup on three occasions prior to this year -- 1952, 1955 and 1979. They were knocked out in the quarters at the last edition in 2020. India face Denmark in the final four, who beat South Korea in their quarterfinal tie. The other semifinal will be played between Indonesia and Japan.
Women Lose to Thailand
India’s Uber Cup campaign ended with a 0-3 loss to Thailand in the quarterfinals. The tie began on a dismal note with Sindhu squandering a lead to go down to Ratchanok Intanon in three games.
Sindhu, ranked 7th in the world, was off the boil for the second consecutive day. She won the opening game but then let world No. 8 Intanon come back into the match.
Sindhu led 14-12 in the decider but the Thai player, who seemed to have gotten the measure of the Indian of late, won seven points on the trot to pocket the match 18-21, 21-17, 21-12 in 59 minutes. This was Sindhu’s fourth straight loss to Intanon.
India went down 0-2 when the women's doubles pair of Shruti Mishra and Simran Singhi lost 16-21, 13-21 against Jongkolphan Kititharakul and Rawinda Prajongjai.
Aakarshi Kashyap fared no better and conceded her match 16-21, 11-21 to Pornpawee Chochuwong in the second singles match.
Defending champions China, Japan and South Korea joined Thailand in the semifinals of Uber Cup.
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