HS Prannoy reached his second BWF Final of the year, beating compatriot Priyanshu Rajawat in straight games during the semifinal of the Australian Open on Saturday.
The sixth seed won 21-18, 21-12 in 43 minutes in a match that showcased 31-year-old Prannoy's experience and 21-year-old Priyanshu's potential.
Prannoy will play China's Weng Hong Yang (who beat Lee Jii Zia) in the final; a rematch of the Malaysia Masters final in June which gave the Indian his first BWF World Tour Title.
Priyanshu, the world No. 31 who beat Kidambi Srikanth in the quarterfinal, started well in his second straight match against a senior Indian pro and the first game was as close as it could get. However, a flurry of errors at inopportune times cost him the match.
Well fought champs👏
The finale awaits you Prannoy! Best wishes 🥳💪🏻 pic.twitter.com/x9ShGLecWi
- SAI Media (@Media_SAI) August 5, 2023
He had a 2-0 lead in a game that began with errors before both players settled into a rhythm. Prannoy used his shots to open up a 5-3 lead before Priyanshu fought back with a couple of jump smashes and winners to level things - a pattern in the first game.
But Prannoy nosed ahead again as the youngster committed a number of unforced errors including on serve - getting fist pumps from Prannoy. He hit the net again to give the senior a slender 11-8 lead at the interval.
Both players were without coaches - a mark of respect in all-Indian clashes but Priyanshu recalibrated well in the break to return and level the game once again, at 14-14.
The next few points were close exchanges and rallies as both players mixed it up. The sixth seed opened the door again, with an 18-16 lead but Priyanshu caught up once again. That particular point showed great reflexes, with two superb no-look backhand shots to force a long shot. Prannoy responded with a fast jump smash winner and a lovely backhand winner to get to game point.
He wrapped up the game thereafter, but he was pushed all the way by a player 10 years younger than him.
The second game was more decisive as Prannoy continued his good touch while Priyanshu was caught in the trap of errors with some poor luck - a short drive and a shot that landed just in after he misjudged it.
He found his mojo again with a 41-shot, all-court rally that saw Prannoy misfire and then went on to win four straight points to level at 7-7. But it was the senior player who went into the interval with a lead (11-7) once again with back-to-back smashes that went straight at Priyanshu, raising hand in apology after the second.
But unlike the first game, the 21-year-old couldn't quite catch up in the second despite a few good shots. Soon Prannoy had 8 game points to seal the semifinal, which he did when Priyanshu hit the net once again.
There was a warm embrace at the net after the rare all-Indian semifinal as Prannoy took his head-to-head to 2-0 against the youngster.
Nonetheless, it was a good campaign for Priyanshu - who played his first Super 500 semifinal. He won the Orleans Masters Super 100 earlier this year and has had a string of encouraging performances recently. He was part of India's Thomas Cup winning side and has steadily improved in the last 12 months, having stretched stars like Anthony Ginting of Indonesia, Japan's Kodai Naraoka and compatriot Lakshya Sen to three games this season.