Prannoy and Srikanth sizzle at Malaysia Masters.

World no. 9 HS Prannoy beat world no. 11 and reigning All England champion Li Shifeng 13-21, 21-16, 21-11 in one hour and 10 minutes to enter the quarterfinals.

May 26, 2023 - 13:37
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Prannoy and Srikanth sizzle at Malaysia Masters.
Kidambi Srikanth and HS Prranoy.

Li Shifeng, the reigning All England Champion, was cruising in the first set of Round 2 at Malaysia Masters. But for the second day in a row, HS Prranoy overcame the first set lapse, to score victories against fancied names- Lion Thursday and Chou Tien Chen a day prior. Patient, prolonged rallying did the trick as the Chinese was thwarted and concerned into making errors after playing a tight controlled opener, as Prannoy won 13-21, 21-16, 21-11 against the talented Chinese on the brink of Top Ten at World No. 11. Prannoy had similarity frustrated the higher ranked Chou whom he defeated 16-21, 21-14, 21-13 in the opener a day earlier. After overcoming Li, he reached the quarterfinals. 

Li Shifeng's game is assembled in the mould of Chen Long's -lithe reach, sharp short backswing smashes and pouncing at the net. He isn't defensively as watertight, but that was more of Prannoy drawing out the chinks in the armour by controlling the pace and tenor off the rallies from set 2 onwards. The two had played once before at the Syed Modi, where Prannoy had similarly won from a set down. He took his time to get a read on Li's game from the non drifty side at the Axiata Arena. It was in the second that the rallies turned longer and Prannoy was slowing down the pace as errors crept into Li's returns. Prannoy got his stick smashes going, but more crucially he used the sudden rapid body attack as the set-up shot before he went for the kill. He used the body attack sparsely but effectively the three-four times he went for the torso, after which the next shot would be away, cannily hit the lines. 

Prannoy also used the angled shots to make Li hit wide and long. All this was on the back of good defending and anticipation from Prannoy as he stayed in the rally scurrying away in wait to go for the kill. The second set grind seemed to annoy Li enough into losing the play in the third. The shift in momentum had happened so imperceptibly that from cruising one moment taking the opener in 23 minutes, Li was suddenly level sets in the next 27 minutes, and staring at the decoder. Prannoy never let go off the lead in the second, but he took off only at 13-all, as Li lurked close but couldn't leap. In the decider though, the Indian could take off to a 16-5 lead as the Chinese errors piled up, and Indian winners went up. Prannoy teased out the short lifts out of Li from tight netplay, and attacked the resultant aerials. At other times, he went for the lines and was pinpoint accurate on the day to beat the second tough opponent within 24 hours. 

Li hit the final shot into the net as Prannoy celebrated with a fist pump after 70 minutes. He next plays Kenta Nishimoto of Japan. Kidambi Srikanth was at his confident best as he downed Thak sensation Kunlavut Vitidsarn 21-19, 21-19, to score an upset against the eighth seed-his first win after 3 losses. It was fantastic clutch play as twice the Indians was 17-19 down and both times came out with winners in the crunch to take the match. In fact, Srikanth started 4-10 down in the opener, but hit his stride with clean cross smashes. Slowly but calmly inching his way back, he would level the scores only at 19-all , but it was a four point surge that would give him the opening set. A mid-set slackening in the second would see him trail 13-18, but once again he would come up with the goods, and in a repeat of the first, get four straight points to win the match from 17-19 down with some exquisite strokeplay to the back court. 

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