HS Prannoy extracted the last ounce of energy from his reservoir to stun two-time defending champion Viktor Axelsen of Denmark in a thrilling 68-minute quarterfinal to ensure a medal for India in the World Badminton Championship on Friday. In a nail-biter, Prannoy once again showed his big-match temperament as he fought back from a game down to outwit the world No. 1 Axelsen 13-21 21-15 21-16 in-front of his home crowd at the Roal Arena. The 31-year-old from Kerala, who claimed the Malaysia Masters Super 500 and reached the finals at Australian Open Super 500 this year, thus continued India’s dream run at the World Championships as the victory sealed the country’s 14th medal in the event. Two-time Olympic medallist PV Sindhu won five of them, including a gold in 2019, and Saina Nehwal (silver and bronze) claimed two. Kidambi Srikanth (silver), Lakshya Sen (bronze), B Sai Praneeth (bronze) and Prakash Padukone (bronze) are the other medallists in singles.
Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and CHirag Shetty had won a bronze in the last edition, while Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponnappa claimed a bronze back in 2011 in the women’s doubles.
Earlier, Indian pair of Satwiksairaj and Shetty missed out on a second World Championships medal after suffering a shocking straight-game loss to Kim Astrup and Anders Skaarup Rasmussen of Denmark in the men’s doubles quarterfinals.
The world number two Indian pair, which had claimed a maiden bronze in the last edition, couldn’t produce their attacking game and went down 18-12 19-21 to the 11th seeded Danish combination, the 2021 bronze winners, in a 48-minute battle.
Given their stupendous success this year, Satwik and Chirag were favourites to win despite their 2-5 head-to-head count against the Danish pair.
But the Indian duo, who last played their opponents in 2021, just couldn’t get going as the local favourites, backed by a vociferous crowd, came up trumps.
Chirag found the going tough, while Satwik tried to keep India in the match but defenses lapses cost them the match. The duo had levelled the scores at 15-15 after losing the opening game but they fell short as the Danes proved just too good on the day.
Chirag started the proceedings for India with a whipping smash to Kim’s weak serve but soon sprayed into the net too many times as the Danish pair led 5-1.
The Indian started to rotate the strike with Satwik unleashing a booming smash to make it 3-5. The lead for the Danes swelled to 9-5 with Satwik and Chirag committing unforced errors.
Kim charged into the net and produced some good interceptions to lead 11-6 at the interval.
Satwik produced a cross court smash before pouncing on a weak return near the net but a few soft errors and some superb play at the front court by Kim helped the Danish lead 15-9.
Chirag’s mistimed lift was neutralised by two cross court smashes from the backline by the Indian as they brought down the deficit to 15-18.
A loose serve from Chirag was then disposed off by Kim. Satwik unleashed two jump smashes but he followed it with a service fault as Kim and Anders grabbed four game points.
The Indians saved two before the Danes converted with an angled return from Anders.
Things didn’t change much after the change of sides with the Danes leading 3-1 with a good serve from Anders.
The Indians couldn’t play their attacking game and also struggled with their timing, soon trailing 4-9.
Another point went the Danes’ way after the shuttle seemed to have touched Kim’s shirt while going out as it was soon 10-6 up.
Satwik put up a relentless attack during a 32-shot rally but Anders sent down a lethal smash to go 11-7 up at the interval.
Another superb smash from Anders took the Danes to 13-8. It was then the Indians conjured hopes of a turnaround with Chirag producing a smash and two good serves to narrow the lead to 13-14.
The Indians won another attacking rally and then Kim sprayed into the net as it became 15-15. A service error from Anders kept things level at 16-16 before Kim hit a cross court smash and with Satwik hitting the net, the Danes opened a two-point lead.
Satwik went to the net again and then hit wide to hand two match points to the local favourites.
Chirag saved one before the Danes converted to seal their second medal at the World championships.