Star shuttler PV Sindhu bowed out but HS Prannoy and young Priyanshu Rajawat notched up contrasting wins to set up an enticing all-Indian men’s singles semifinal clash in the Australian Open Super 500 badminton tournament on Friday. Orleans Masters champion Rajawat will make his maiden appearance in a semifinal of a Super 500 tournament after knocking out compatriot Kidambi Srikanth 21-13 21-8 in a lop-sided men’s singles quarterfinal. World number 9 Prannoy came out victorious after a slugfest with world number 2 Anthony Sinisuka Ginting of Indonesia, bouncing back from an opening game reversal to notch up a gritty 16-21 21-17 21-14 win in a 73-minute battle.
Two-time Olympic medallist Sindhu, who has slipped to world number 17 following a series of early exits, was looking to make her fourth semifinal of the season but found it tough to tame USA’s world number 12 Beiwen Zhang, losing 12-21 17-21 in 39 minutes.
In their 10 past meetings, Sindhu had won six times against her opponent. The last time she faced Zhang, the Indian had beaten her in straight games in the 2020 All England Championship.
But Sindhu just couldn’t get going on Friday against the 33-year-old China-born American, who showed better control to come up trumps.
Sindhu, the 2019 world champion, had beaten compatriots Ashmita Chaliha and Aakarshi Kashyap in the first two rounds but her loss to Zhang would come as a big disappointment ahead of the World Championships in Copenhagen, Denmark, to be held from August 21 to 27.
Both Prannoy and Ginting came into the match with a 2-2 head-to-head record with the Indonesian having the last laugh in their previous encounter at the All England Championships in March this year.
Sixth seed Prannoy fell behind right from the start with Ginting dominating the rallies, leading 11-6 at the break.
The Indian had his moments but it was too little as the Indonesian kept a firm grip on the match, maintaining a four-point lead.
At 14-19, Prannoy reeled off two quick points before Ginting prevailed to take a 1-0 lead.
The second game started on an even keel with the duo fighting close before Prannoy broke off at 9-9 to take a slender two-point lead at the break.
He jumped to a 14-9 advantage before Ginting cut the deficit to 12-15. The Indian shuttler moved to seven-game points but squandered four of them before taking the contest to the decider.
In the third game, Prannoy galloped to 4-0 lead but Ginting managed to make it 7-8 before the Indian eked out an 11-7 advantage.
Prannoy extended his lead to 15-8 when Ginting scripted a fine recovery with five straight points to make it 13-15 but the Indian squashed the mutiny and soon shut the door on his top-seeded rival.
Prannoy will go into the semifinal with a 1-0 advantage against world number 31 Rajawat, having beaten him at the Syed Modi International in 2022.
However, Rajawat, the 21-year-old from Madhya Pradesh, who had joined Pullela Gopichand’s Gwalior academy at the age of 8, has improved by leaps and bounds in the last 12 months, having stretched Ginting, Japan’s Kodai Naraoka and compatriot Lakshya Sen to three games this season.
In a battle between a senior pro and one trying to find his place in the international circuit, Rajawat gave ample display of his talent as he slowly grabbed a 11-6 lead at the interval against Srikanth.
On resumption, the former world number 1 narrowed down the lead to 11-13 after winning five of the next seven points, but Rajawat broke off with a four-point burst to create a 19-13 gap which Srikanth couldn’t bridge.
The young Indian was faster and more precise in his return and maintained his momentum to zoom to an 11-3 lead after the change of sides.
He kept a hold on the match to eventually close out the match without much ado.