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Thursday, May 26, 2022

Srikanth vs Antonsen the key; Satwik-Chirag need to beat Astrup-Christiansen; Mount Viktor for Sen to scale

A quick glance through today's Thomas Cup matchups as India take on Denmark in semifinals.

Written by Shivani Naik |
Updated: May 13, 2022 3:43:12 pm
Srikanth vs AntonsenKidambi Srikanth (right) trails 2-3 against Denmark's Anders Antonsen. (AP | PTI)

A quick glance through today’s Thomas Cup matchups as India take on Denmark in semifinals.

MS1: Lakshya Sen vs Viktor Axelsen

H2H: 1-5 win-loss for Sen.

Memories of the All England final will still be fresh for Lakshya Sen where his game was dismantled by the Olympics champion, Axelsen. But Axelsen has shown vulnerability in the last few days, including when dropping the opening set against Heo Kwanghee in quarters.

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Sen won the semis at German Open on the weekend before All England, a 22-20 in the decider in the 21-13, 12-21, 22-20 win. That was the only time the faceoff went the distance, and the tall Axelsen has preferred to wrap up in straight sets, with a compact game capped by the big unreturnable smash.

Sen’s wildly reflexive defense and dramatic diving though has been a tad suspect at Bangkok, and he had complained of some aches on his return from All England. Without that aspect and the waning fearlessness – only natural given opponents will read him – his attack looks mild lite.

Yet, this is Lakshya Sen, backed by a smart team of tacticians in Indian coaching, who headed into the summer swing on back of giant kills. There isn’t an opponent out there who wonders abt Sen: ‘once bitten, twice why won’t?’ He starts as a firm underdog, and he loves that tag to the core.

***

MD1: Satwiksairaj Rankireddy – Chirag Shetty vs Kim Astrup – Mathias Christiansen

H2H: 0-0.

This match turns exciting because Mathias Boe is in the coaching chair. India’s. And he would know the Danes inside out, and is best placed to plot their takedown. He even partnered Kim Astrup briefly.

Like the Malaysians, Denmark are fielding a scratch pairing – Christiansen usually partners Alexander Boje, and Astrup has a successful pairing with Anders Rasmussen, who enjoy a 5-2 H2H over the Indians including a 21-16, 21-5 slaughtering at World Tour Finals. So Indians can be happy they need only deal with Astrup here, the Danes having split their pair to prop up the second doubles.

Satwik-Chirag are riding high on confidence after beating Malaysia, but might find the Danes a touch less nervous and far more combative.

***

MS2: Kidambi Srikanth vs Anders Antonsen

H2H: Srikanth trails 2-3 though he won a protracted see-saw 21-19, 19-21, 22-20 at the Swiss Open earlier this year after three straight sets defeats.

India will count on Srikanth to get this win – and this mid-tie match promises to be the pivot around which India’s progress will hinge, never mind if it’s 2-0 or 0-2 to start with.

The new Srikanth fights, and is ready to grit it out on court. He’s always had the strokes, but there’s a layer of solidity to him now, that can ruffle Antonsen. He would do well to think of this as his last outing and give it his all. Antonsen plays wild, but can be trusted to fight to the bitter end as well. So it’s a good matchup between two intense indefatigable souls.

And yes, Denmark – India is where the tactical battles of the backroom teams, will come to life on court. But leave it to the ticking brains on court to pull off sizzling surprises

****

MD2: Krishna Prasad Garaga – Vishnuvardhan Goud Panjala vs Anders Skaarup Rasmussen-Frederik Seogaard

H2H: 0-0

Indians are ranked 45, and the Dane scratch pair with a notional ranking of 1341. Again, Mathias Boe becomes a crucial cog in this. Dhruv Kapila-MR Arjun were held back and not fielded as part of strategy, but the two that take the court have played with some amount of determination, without really looking like winning against the Malaysians.

Yet, scratch pairs are always vulnerable and should it come to that the Indians will look to exploit the 84 minute late night loss that the Danes suffered at the hands of Koreans on Thursday, and hope they can spring a wild one. But strictly outside chance for Indians here.

***

HS Prannoy vs Rasmus Gemke

H2H: Prannoy trails 1-2.

Prannoy, ranked 23 will back himself to make this 2-2 in career head to heads against Gemke, ranked 13. The Indian sounded his good form horn by beating Gemke in fact at the World Championships at Huelva in 2021 in a thrilling 22-20 decider, rallying from a set down.

Prannoy is playing one of his steadiest phases of badminton, and can count as one of strongest third singles players in the tournament. He’s backed to deliver the goods by coaches and federation which is why he was exempted from trials, and his confidence stems from his game that looks sharp and effective.

Gemke is typically stodgy, but should Indua drag this into decider, he’ll be up against a highly driven opponent, who has done it before for India at Asian and other team events. The decibel outside should back the backhand beast.

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