The season’s final Superseries tournament -- the $400,000 Yonex-Sunrise Hong Kong Open 2017 -- has opened up a golden opportunity for India’s HS Prannoy as he seeks a much-coveted berth at the Dubai World Superseries Finals for the first time.
Before the start of the tournament, the World No. 10, who bowed out in the second round of the China Open last week, needed to win the Hong Kong Open in order to be still in contention for a spot. And his draw looked extremely tough as he aimed to do so with the world champion Viktor Axelsen being his potential second round opponent and the seventh seeded Chou Tien Chen waiting in the quarter-finals.
In a surprising turn of events on Wednesday, the top seeded Axelsen pulled out of the tournament before his first round match, resulting in a walkover to Japan’s World No. 25 Kazumasa Sakai. The World No. 1 later revealed in an Instagram post that it was an infection in the little toe of his right foot that forced him to opt out of the event.
He has been finding it difficult to put that foot in a shoe and the unbearable pain made it impossible to play.
The day also saw the upset of Chou Tien Chen in the first round. The seventh seed battled hard for three games before falling 21-11, 20-22, 17-21 to World No. 29 Brice Leverdez of France.
Prannoy needs to reach at least the semi-finals
The twin shocks leave HS Prannoy with no higher-ranked player to face until the semi-finals where he can have a possible showdown with the fifth seed and China Open champion Chen Long. The Olympic champion is also one of the contenders for one of the two spots still available for Dubai.
He made a big statement last week in an otherwise shoddy season by winning the title in Fuzhou that shot him up to the ninth place right above Prannoy in the Destination Dubai Rankings.
With the two in the running for the season-ending championships, it will be quite justified to see them battling it out in the last-four, especially after their thrilling Indonesia Open clash which the Indian won.
Along with Prannoy and Chen Long, the others still in contention are Lee Chong Wei, Wong Wing ki Vincent and Anders Antonsen.