The trouble with trying to tame temperamental talent — like Hong Kong shuttler Hu Yun’s — is that it can fetch up on court at any moment and erase the quantum of hardwork put in by the likes of Parupalli Kashyap. As the Indian Commonwealth Games champion goes in pursuit of his first-ever Super Series title, he would need to be wary of that prodigious talent surfacing suddenly and killing his hopes of a maiden championship that has eluded him throughout his career.
The Indian, ranked 15 currently should sniff a chance at the Singapore Open Super Series, given how all the seeded players have been evicted by the semifinals stage. At 28 years, and having accounted for one of the higher-ranked players who lost early — fourth seed Son Wan Ho — Kashyap will need to temper his excitement at sensing an opportunity that brings him so close to the title.
But there’s not a more trickier player than Hu Yun to run into at this penultimate hurdle. He’s not the everyday hard-worker who maxes his skill with physical fortitude. Blessed with copious natural talent, the 33-year-old can “work magic on the court,” but is so prone to inconsistency that just about every Top 30 player on the circuit fancies his chances against him.
That, coupled with his injury-ravaged body and a ripe age of 33 offers Kashyap a chance to level their career head-to-head at 2-2. He currently trails his opponent 1-2, but can boast of a win the last time the two met at the Worlds in 2013.
Still, you can never take a man who’s beaten World No. 1 Chen Long in Round 2, lightly, even if he’s played two hour-long matches coming into the semifinal. Kashyap himself was clinical in disposing of the challenge of French Brice Leverdez 21-6, 21-17. Importantly, he expended lesser energy and can be fresher against an opponent susceptible to imploding if stretched physically and deeper into the tournament.
A clutch of Indians have beaten Yun Hu in recent years, and as such his game is widely dissected, but what former international Arvind Bhat recommends is a simple ploy of perseverance.
“Kashyap needs to be aware that the real match will start only in the second game. Kashyap starts very well, and may well win the opening game, but Yun Hu definitely strikes back in the second after starting slow. The trick is to tire him out in the second, and be aggressive in the first and third.”
Yun has an all-round game – steep smashes, deceptive wrists, the works. “You can’t catch him on a particular weakness in his game. But Kashyap must look to tire him out. He’s 33,” Bhat reiterates.
Coach Gopichand admitted this was perhaps the closest of chances up until now for Kashyap to aim for a Super Series title, and that he has been playing very well in the last 3 matches at Singapore. “He’s adapted well here, and is playing well. Kashyap will need to take advantage of his strong smash and put pressure on his opponent,” he said, adding that the Indian is due some serious luck and needs a good stretch of matches minus injuries wherein he can unleash his own potential. “Whoever controls the net will do well tomorrow,” he adds.
India’s other quarterfinalist HS Prannoy conceded a walkover after he was felled by a slight strain under his toe that hampered his movement. “But Kashyap has a real chance here,” Gopichand asserts.