HS Prannoy is in the final of the BWF Malaysia Masters after an incredible match-in-the-making was cut short with Christian Adinata's knee injury forcing him to retire hurt. Prannoy will now face the winner of Lin Chun-Yi (Chinese Taipei) vs Hong Yang Weng (China) in the final.
Prannoy is the sole remaining Indian at the Malaysia Masters after PV Sindhu was left reeling in straight-game semifinal loss to Gregoria Mariska Tunjung of Indonesia.
Prannoy vs Adinata had been shaping up as a classic, when at 18-17, Adinata's knee crumbled underneath him as he went for a routine return. His yell of pain, and Prannoy's reaction across the net, immediately indicated the seriousness of the incident. Prannoy rushed over to his opponent and was soon joined by the Indonesia medical team. Unable to continue, Adinata -- evidently still in shock -- was taken off court on a wheelchair.
The game had started in an incredibly one-sided manner, Prannoy taking a 11-1 lead inside five minutes. The Indian world no 9 had reached the semi after impressive wins against Chou Tien Chou, Li Shi Feng, and Kenta Nishimoto in the earlier rounds -- all of the matches had gone the distance, lasting more than an hour (Nishimoto was defeated in an hour and a half). He was clearly the in-form player at the tournament and it showed in the blistering start as he peppered Adinata with smashes to the body and trademark angled cross-courts that left him stranded.
Adinata, though, wasn't about to just give in. The 21-year-old Indonesian world no 57 had gotten to the semis the hard way - through two qualifiers and three rounds against higher ranked opponents, (including Prannoy's compatriot Kidambi Srikanth in the quarterfinal) and he wasn't ready to be swept aside in this semi.
It started with a lucky net cord break to make it 2-11 for him before he reeled off two consecutive points, the last of which was a sensational drop at the net that Prannoy just couldn't get under. Prannoy fought back with a superb defence-to-offence counter that he finished with a smash to the body. With the crowd cheering on loudly - evidently not keen on seeing a one-sided semifinal encounter - Adinata then went on a run of three consecutive points to make it 7-12.
Prannoy then let out his first roar of the match at 14-8 as he ended a quick rally with a cross court smash. It looked like he was pumping himself back up after having let that early dominance ease off. Another net-cord drop helped Adinata win back serve immediately and from 9-14 he made it 13-15.
Then came the point of the short encounter, when a long rally in which both players exchanged control was finished off by a pin-point backhand flick from Adinata that landed just in. He then showcased his superb defense as he twisted into logic-defying poses to keep a charging Prannoy at bay before turning it around and thundering a down the line smash that made it 15-15; a ten-point lead erased just like that.
A magnificently disguised drop from Prannoy made it 16-15 before Adinata levelled again as Prannoy placed his angled smash just wide. In attempting to get to that smash, though, Adinata appeared to scrape his knee on the court and sought medical attention.
He returned to court soon; and a quick exchange of points saw Prannoy take a 18-17 lead. On the next point, Adinata's knee gave way and he couldn't return Prannoy's regulation clear (which is why the final score reads 19-17). Prannoy stayed with Adinata as the medical team inspected him before giving him an empathetic pat on the chest - who better to understand the pain of injury striking when on top form.
Prannoy's final appearance is his first this year -- in fact, his first finals appearance in a BWF tour event since the Swiss Open in March last year - and brings hope to what has been a bleak run for Indian singles players these past few months. He would not, though, have wanted it come in these circumstances.