China's Weng Hong Yang beat HS Prannoy in an epic of a final, coming back from 14-19 down in the decider and saving a championship point to win the Australian Open 21-9, 21-23, 22-20 on Sunday.
Sixth seed Prannoy showed his trademark grit to fight back from a lopsided first game and was withing inches of the finish line before the Chinese pulled off a remarkable comeback to win the Super 500 final. Thid was a rematch of the Malaysia Masters final in June, where Prannoy had won his first BWF World Tour title after another marathon final.
The final was a match that no player deserved to lose, going down to the wire in the second and third games and studded with intense rallies, stunning points and outstanding badminton skills from both sides.
Prannoy, who beat top seed Anthony Sinisuka Ginting and compatriot Priyanshu Rajawat, had an error-prone first game where he couldn't get to double digits on the scorecard. The match was level till 7-7 before Weng ran off with his attack and the lead and it seemed like Prannoy was preparing for the long haul.
The second game started with a slight advantage to Weng before Prannoy cleaned up his act, reduced his errors and started finding his mark with precise winners - something he did exceedingly well throughout the match. He went into the break with an 11-8 advantage.
The second half of the second game was an intense period of play with Weng drawing level at 15-15. The crucial bit that followed saw both players at their best with athletic rallies and canny plays. The match hung in the balance at 19-19 when Weng needed medical treatment.
Prannoy H. S. ���� takes it to the decider!
- BWF (@bwfmedia) August 6, 2023
He saved two game points after the brief break, but Prannoy eventually forced the decider with his sharp winners proving to be the difference. The 36 minutes of play saw Prannoy wear down his opponent with his endurance, as he so often does.
The third game started off a bit slower, with both players having to recalibrate after the rollercoaster second. Prannoy once again pulled ahead and had the lead at 11-8 after 25 minutes of play, almost as long as the whole first game.
Prannoy dictated the points for most part, taking a 19-14 lead and looking set for his second title of the year. But Weng, who looked spent, mounted a late flourish. The Chinese chipped away at the lead courtesy smart winners and a few errors from Prannoy.
And then came the moment of the match - a 71-shot rally that was outstanding and outrageous and had both players show their incredible reflexes and stamina. At the end, both collapsed on the court in sync after Prannoy hit the net with a tired shot. The score read 19-18 and Weng was within touching distance of the title.
Prannoy regrouped and had a Championship point with a quick exchange at the net, but his tired reflexes and the net cord helped Weng level things. He then secured a Championship point of his own with a quick winner and Prannoy hit a shot long to seal the match.
Irrespective of the result, it was a crucial tournament for Prannoy - India's highest ranked singles player - showing good form ahead of the World Championship that begin later this month.