HS Prannoy beat Olympic champion Viktor Axelsen 14-21, 21-17, 21-18 in a BWF World Tour Finals match in Bangkok on Friday. This is Prannoy’s second win over Axelsen.
In the opening game, Axelsen raced to an 11-7 lead at the interval. Prannoy bounced back with seven points, but the Dane shuttler upped his ante and cruised to take the game 21-14 with an angled crosscourt stroke.
Beginning the second game, Prannoy showed signs of a fight back, even smashing right into Axelsen’s nose to give him a brief scare. But that did not rattle the world no. 1 as Axelsen quickly gained a 6-4 lead.
Thereafter, Prannoy engaged Axelsen in rallies and net play to squeeze the gap to 8-10 and earned five consecutive points to take a 16-12 lead after the interval with smashes and edge-of-the-court strokes. The Indian, however, dropped the first game point chance at 20-15 while trying to play a crosscourt smash. He then quickly levelled the scoreline taking the game 21-16, with Axelsen hitting the net and sending the shuttle wide.
Prannoy was already out of the semifinal contention after losing his first two matches. In contrast, the reigning Olympic champion Axelsen beat Kodai Naraoka and Lu Guang Zu in straight games to seal his place in the last four.
Earlier, Prannoy lost to Kodai Naraoka of Japan and Lu Guang Zu of China in successive matches. In both matches, the Indian shuttler lost after playing a three-game contest.
Prannoy was the lone Indian player competing at the 2022 season-ending BWF World Tour Finals – where only the top 8 players/pairs of the year take part.
The world No 12 was in Group A along with Olympic and world champion Viktor Axelsen of Denmark, Japan’s Kodai Naraoka (world No 14) and China’s Lu Guang Zu (world No 17). The top 2 from each group qualify and Prannoy is seeded third, behind only the Danish world No 1 in the rankings. Chou Tien Chen, Jonatan Christie, Anthony Ginting, and Loh Kean Yew are the four players in the other group.
Prannoy has enjoyed a rewarding 2022, breaking into the Top 15 for the first time in four years. This was the first time he has qualified for the year-end competition.