If there was a giant to be felled, HS Prannoy would wade into battle and slay him. Throughout his career — never mind his ranking in the far 50s or grazing Top 10 — the 25-year-old has collected big scalps – starting with Taufik Hidayat in 2013 to Chong Wei and Chen Long at Indonesia last year. When Prannoy beat Lin Dan in Round 1 at the Indonesia Open, there was the familiar flashing headline of a big win. It would whiz past like a shooting star, only to fade off into the far distance though.
For far too long, Prannoy’s big beastly game has lacked the follow-up win: the day after with losses coming against players ranked not as high. On Thursday at the Istora Senayan in Jakarta, a stormy arena because of the fiendish drift coming from the air-conditioning, HS Prannoy took a very small step in taking that sequel step that is necessary to string together five wins for a title.
In a battle lasting an hour – most of which saw him rally from a first set deficit, Prannoy beat Chinese Taipei’s talented shuttler Tzu Wei Wang 21-23, 21-15, 21-13. The likes of Tzu Wei have proven to be typical stumbling blocks for Prannoy the day after he snares the big one. As it is, beating Lin Dan, the legend on the slide, had extracted plentiful effort. Super Dan tends to pull out his big game, which is essentially shifting gears really quick and doubling the pace in a blink of the eye.
Prannoy had done well to take control of those rallies against the Chinese legend, knowing Dan would rain down on him like a cloudburst. But on Thursday, another challenge presented itself. Tzu Wei first snuck in the opener with a three point surge to close out at 23-21 after Prannoy led 20-19. Thereafter Prannoy would put his head down knowing that he held the advantage on stamina and skill if he could drag it to the decider.
The Taipese is an extremely strong hitter, and Prannoy would ensure he cut down on the easy lifts he was offering him on a platter. “In the conditions over here, drift is way too tough to control. Probably in the first game I gave him too many easy chances to hit. But in second and third, I made it harder for him to attack those easy lifts,” he said.
Almost chastised after his many years of deceiving after the proverbial flatter of a result, Prannoy has changed his approach now, calming down after the big wins and approaching the next day organically.
“These days I don’t go to tournaments thinking of an aim like I need to play this round or reach this far. There’s a couple of things I’ve changed over the years: not keeping targets for myself and going out there and enjoying myself. I want to do things that I actually practice everyday and have the willpower to employ them in a game situation in tournaments. That’s the biggest change,” he says.
He will need more of that zen approach when he meets Chinese Shi Yuqi, against whom he’s 1-3 down in career head to heads. But HS Prannoy is always up for an upset, especially at his big-hunting venue Indonesia.
Olympic silver medallist P V Sindhu celebrated her 23rd birthday with a straight-game win over Japan’s Aya Ohori to enter the quarterfinals. World No 3 Sindhu, who had reached the semifinals at Malaysia Open last week, didn’t break much sweat as she defeated Ohori, ranked 17th, 21-17 21-14 in a 36-minute women’s singles match. This is Sindhu’s fifth win over the Japanese in as many meetings.