NAGPUR: Kidambi Srikanth and Viktor Axelsen are two of the top shuttlers in the world right now. Slowly working his way up is HS Prannoy. He made his case stronger with a maiden senior national title on Wednesday. Not only did he overcome Srikanth, Prannoy won the first and the third games with relative ease on way to a 21-15, 16-21, 21-7 win over the World No 2.
Another higher-ranked favourite to falter at the final hurdle was women’s World No 2, PV Sindhu. She was defeated 21-17, 27-25 by Saina Nehwal. In a keenly contested match, Saina seemed more fluid in her movements and snatched victory.
The final day of the national championship offered pulsating action as the top shuttlers enthralled spectators with a range of dribbles and rallies. Saina said she expected a marathon match.
“Considering the way Sindhu has been playing, I thought this would be another three-setter. She has been playing so many intense matches,” said Saina after winning a third senior national title, after 2007 and 2008. “I am surprised with the way I played today. I moved well and picked up Sindhu’s difficult shots.”
Quite a lot of the thrill was provided by Prannoy. In the second game the tide had turned in Srikanth’s favour as Prannoy started committing unforced errors. But the third game told a completely different story, as nothing seemed to be going Srikanth’s way. He often fumbled with the biggest weapon in his armoury — the smash. Before the final, Prannoy had said that the winner would be decided based on who executes the shots better.
“I know it would be tough, but I know I am right up there. It’s just about executing shots better,” he had said. The match did not really turn out to be as tough, with the 25-year-old sailing through the last game.
“We spar together every day. So there was no plan as such. I was just not getting frustrated and that helped. I knew that Srikanth needs time to get settled. And I also knew that if he gets settled, he gets into a different zone altogether,” Prannoy said after the final.
Their head-to-head record now stands at 3-2 in Srikanth’s favour. Before Wednesday’s final, Prannoy had only one victory against the multiple Superseries event winner. It was way back in 2011, at the Tata Open India International Challenge. The latest match between the Pullela Gopichand Academy mates might be the signal of a fresh rivalry as they often produce three-set battles.
The doubles title went to B Sumeeth Reddy and Manu Attri. The pair saved a match point to grab the crown in a three-set match. Up against the young pair of Satwik Sairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty, the experienced duo held their nerves to come out on top. The way Sumeeth celebrated told how much this meant to him.
HS Prannoy bt Kidambi Srikanth 21-15, 16-21, 21-7
Manu Attri/B Sumeeth Reddy bt Chirag Shetty/Satwik Sairaj R 15-21, 22-20, 25-23
Saina Nehwal bt PV Sindhu 21-17, 27-25
Ashwini Ponnappa/N Sikki Reddy bt Prajakta Sawant/Sanyogita Ghorpade 21-14, 21-14
Ashwini Ponnappa/Satwik Sairaj R bt Pranaav J Chopra/N Sikki Reddy 21-9, 20-22, 21-17
This was Saina Nehwal’s third senior national title.