India will have two singles semi-finalists at the Malaysia Masters as PV Sindhu and HS Prannoy prevailed in tough, three-game battles at the Super 500 tournament in Kuala Lumpur on Friday.
It was a heartening performance from India's No 1 in both women's and men's singles a week after the Sudirman Cup setback, as Prannoy reached his first BWF Tour semis of the year, while Sindhu in her first at a Super 500 in 2023.
Sindhu put up one of her best all-round performances since her return from a five-month injury layoff in January, to beat Zhang Yi Man 21-16, 13-21, 22-20. She had lost to the Chinese player at All England earlier this year and had to dig deep, even squandering three match points.
Prannoy played his third straight marathon of a contest and came through 25-23, 18-21, 21-13 against Kenta Nishimoto for his first-ever win over his Japanese opponent. Earlier in the day, Kidambi Srikanth lost 21-16, 16-21, 11-21 to Christian Adinata in 57 minutes to end his campaign in the quarterfinals.
The Malaysia Masters Super 500 is the first of five straight weeks of top-flight tournaments on the BWF Tour and only India's singles players are in action at the event which is among the first in the Olympic qualification cycle that began this month.
Sindhu's strong win
Sindhu, erratic since her return in January, has slowly been building up momentum. Her best finish so far had been at the Super 300 in Madrid in March, where she reached the final but lost to Gregoria Mariska Tunjung in a one-sided match.
Also Read: PV Sindhu's Madrid final loss has a bright silver lining
She will face the world No 9 Indonesian again for a place in the final on Saturday, and her win over Zhang might just be the catalyst she needs.
Sindhu, the world No 13 now, started her match trailing 0-5 but bounced back to level at 10-10 and then took the lead till she clinched the first game 21-16. After the change of ends, Zhang led the second game throughout to force a decider.
Pusarla V. Sindhu ���� and Zhang Yi Man ���� go all out for a semifinal spot.#BWFWorldTour #MalaysiaMasters2023 pic.twitter.com/inSNHNbp1H
- BWF (@bwfmedia) May 26, 2023
The third game was the closest - from 12-12 onwards, the opponents didn't give each other more than a two-point lead. At 17-17, Sindhu raced ahead to three match points, but a couple of nervy errors meant Zhang had saved them all to level the score 20-20. The Chinese star then made an error on serve and Sindhu converted her fourth match point to a loud roar.
This was a close match she needed to win, after two three-game losses at the Sudirman Cup, and her movement, court coverage and defence looked set together. She will need all this and more to beat Tunjung, who dominated second seed Wang Zhi Yi in the quarters. Sindhu has a 7-1 record against the Indonesian, but her last match, in the Madrid Masters final, was an 8-21, 8-21 loss.
Prannoy had a battle on his hand from the start against Nishimoto, whom he had never beaten before. There was little to separate both players as the first game was level on 12-12, 17-17, 20-20 and 23-23. Prannoy held his nerve, first saving three game points at 17-20 and then staying in the rallies till an error gave him an opening and he clinched the game.
The second game was also on level terms till 9-9 but Nishimoto raced to a 17-11 lead. Prannoy looked exhausted and even took a brief break to have a look at his leg. But despite a late charge by the Indian, he couldn't finish it in two.
In the decider, he looked to be in good touch again and raced ahead to clinch it on his first match point.
Prannoy, who reached his career high of world No 7 earlier this month, has put together a good run of wins here, knocking out world No 6 Chou Tien Chen in the first round and the beating All England champion Li Shi Feng. He will next take on Indonesian qualifier Christian Adinata, who beat Kidambi Srikanth.
The youngster, ranked 57, is a bit of an unknown quantity, and Prannoy will need to recover physically for what could be another gruelling battle.