New Delhi, Aug 26: Sports minister Anurag Thakur lavished praise on HS Prannoy after the India’s highest ranked men’s singles player fought back from a game down to overpower local favourite and defending champion Viktor Axelsen in the quarterfinals to assure himself his first BWF World Championships medal in Copenhagen, Denmark.
“What a win! Brilliant smart play and absolutely gripping performance by our #TOPScheme shuttler @PRANNOYHSPRI to take down the reigning World Champion Axelsen. Our champ perseveres coming back from a game down and commanding the next 2 games to secure a spot in the SEMIS and assuring India it's 14th medal at the #BWFWorldChampionships, Hats off for the stupendous play! On to the next one,” Anurag Thakur wrote on Twitter.
The 13-21, 21-15, 21-16 win on Friday makes Prannoy the fifth Indian men’s singles player to win a medal in the BWF World Championships and also extends India’s record of having at least one medallist in the prestigious event since 2011.
But all this had looked difficult once men’s doubles second seeds Chirag Shetty and Satwiksairaj Rankireddy were knocked out in the last eight stage earlier in the day and India’s medal hopes solely depended on Prannoy, who despite his current form went into the match as an underdog against the Dane.
Axelsen led their head-to-head record 7-2 and had won the last three tournaments he had participated in the run-up to the championship on home soil. And the world no. 1 looked like he could run away with things when he opened up a 9-2 lead in the opening game. Though Prannoy could not overturn that deficit, he did find his rhythm after the mid-game interval and that definitely sent a message to his opponent that he was ready for a fight.
Prannoy, who had upset 2021 World Champion Loh Kean Yew in the earlier round, showed greater purpose in his approach in the second game and was able to read Axelsen’s strokes far better than in the opening game. He also began finding his range with both the forehand and backhand smashes and that instantly put pressure on the Dane, who was found wanting for gaps to score points.
The 49-shot rally to make it 19-14 in the second game not only showed the resilience of Prannoy but also his ability to make the most of the opportunities that came his way.
If the local fans were expecting Axelesen to find his mojo in the decider, Prannoy was well prepared to win the battle at the net and that meant that the world no. 1 was always chasing the shuttle.
There were a few nervous moments when Axelsen closed the gap from 6-12 to 14-17 but Prannoy stood his ground and forced errors from his opponents to wrap up the quarterfinal in an hour and eight minutes. He will now face 3rd seed Kunlavut Vitidsarn of Thailand, who packed off Chinese Taipei’s Wang Tzu Wei 18-21, 21-15, 21-13.
Earlier in the men’s doubles quarterfinals, Shetty and Satwik had gone down 21-18, 21-19 against the Danish combination of Kim Astrup and Anders Skaarp Rasmussen.