Japan Open 2016: HS Prannoy bows out in second round to Viktor Axelsen
Indian shuttler HS Prannoy put up a gutsy fight but it was not enough to overcome the challenge of the second seed Viktor Axelsen in the second round of the Japan Open Superseries in Tokyo on Thursday. The Dane stopped Prannoy’s late charge to take the win, 21-16, 21-19 in 44 minutes.
He now goes on to meet the sixth seed Son Wan Ho in the quarter-finals.
It was always going to be a tough challenge for the Indian as he had never beaten the Dane in their past three meetings, even though each time their match had gone the distance. The 24-year-old is trying to reach the top echelons of the game after having suffered a toe injury a few months back.
The injury also triggered a slide in rankings for the former World No. 12 and he is now down to No. 31 in the world rankings. On the other hand, Axelsen arrived in this tournament brimming with confidence. He is the reigning European champion and he even picked a bronze medal at the Rio Olympics by beating the legendary Lin Dan.
Tough opening game
Prannoy built up early leads in both the games in this clash only to see them getting vanished as Axelsen made strong comebacks each time. The opening game was hard-fought in the initial stages. But after the lemon break, Axelsen looked more confident as he kept on bagging points to increase his lead from 11-9 to 20-12.
Prannoy then saved four game points but Axelsen slammed shut his chances to take the first game 21-16.
The Indian began the second game with a bang, surging ahead to 3-0. Once more, both were locked in a tough battle from thereon but the Dane broke away from 7-7 to lead 11-7. Prannoy reduced the gap to 9-11 and even led 15-14 at one point but Axelsen could not be kept in check for long. He built up a lead of 18-15.
Prannoy then produced a massive effort to come back and again snatch the advantage. But after having led 19-18, he could not pocket a single point as Axelsen wrapped it up.
With Prannoy's exit, the eighth-seeded Kidambi Srikanth now remains the last Indian standing at this tournament. He earlier progressed into the quarter-finals after Ajay Jayaram retired at the end of the first game which Srikanth won, 21-16.
He will now take on Marc Zwiebler of Germany for a place in the semi-finals.