HS Prannoy aims to emulate Srikanth Kidambi and Sai Praneeth’s unique feat
In a year of renaissance for Indian badminton, the men’s singles shuttlers have a chance to steal the show yet again at the ongoing $120,000 SkyCity New Zealand Open 2017 in Auckland this week. And what’s more, there is a unique hat-trick in the offing.
It all boils down to how HS Prannoy manages to perform at this particular Grand Prix Gold tournament. Last month, the 25-year-old won his first title since last year’s Swiss Open at the US Open Grand Prix Gold to gift himself the third international title of his career.
If he can summon that same courage and conviction in Auckland and win it too, he can emulate his practice partners, Srikanth Kidambi and B Sai Praneeth's feats, by winning back-to-back tournaments this year.
Sai Praneeth was the first of the two to achieve it. The Pullela Gopichand protégé won his maiden Superseries crown at the Singapore Open, beating Srikanth in the summit clash. Brimming with confidence, he went on to capture the very next title too which was the Thailand Open Grand Prix Gold about a month and a half later.
In June, Srikanth mesmerized Indian sports fans with his brilliant title-winning performances at the Indonesia Open Superseries Premier and Australia Open Superseries in consecutive weeks.
It made him the first Indian man to accomplish such a feat.
Seamless progress for Prannoy so far
Now Prannoy will hope to inspire himself and join the rarefied air. If his first couple of rounds at the New Zealand Open are anything to go by, then he is well on the way.
The World No. 17 was reportedly carrying a minor injury after his US Open exploits but his smooth and seamless progress suggests that he has definitely overcome it.
The fourth seed started the tournament with a 21-14, 21-16 victory over World No. 104 Shesar Hiren Rustavito and followed it up with a slightly tougher 23-21, 21-18 win over the 19-year-old Firman Abdul Kholik. And that extended his winning streak to eight matches.
His path, however, is not at all hassle-free. After a showdown with the 10th seed Wei Nan and a possible encounter with the 11th seeded Lin Yu Hsien, the 25-year-old has the uphill task of dealing with the top seed Tzu Wei Wang in the semi-finals.
The World No. 12 Chinese Taipei ace boasts a 2-1 head-to-head record over Prannoy. Still, if the Indian can cause an upset, fans might be in for an encore of the US Open final with the Commonwealth Games champion Parupalli Kashyap in the other half of the draw.