Saina and Sindhu stay on course
Having recovered from a back injury, Aditya Prakash stood tall among the Gopi Chand Academy trainees after the Indian men occupied three semifinal spots in the $120,000 India Grand Prix badminton championship here on Friday.
Aditya, 23, may not pack much of a punch in his strokes but, on this day, his retrieving abilities carried him past the unpredictable Iskandar Zulkarnain Zainuddin of Malaysia on his way to the last-four stage of a Grand Prix Gold event for the first time.
This was Aditya’s second victory over Iskandar, having beaten him in the 2010 Malaysia International Challenge in three games. Aditya now faces Chinese ninth seed Xue Song, who defeated Subhankar Dey to prevent an Indian sweep of the semifinal berths.
The other finalist will be either National champion B. Srikanth or H.S. Prannoy.
Meanwhile, the women’s top seed Saina Nehwal and second seed P.V. Sindhu stayed on course for their much-anticipated final on Republic Day.
Saina, who next plays Chinese Deng Xuan, overcame a 9-14 deficit in the opening game, to record her fourth straight-game victory over Indonesia’s No. 2 Bellaetrix Manuputy, seeded five.
Sindhu was more ruthless in dismissing another Indonesian, Hera Desi. The victory set up a repeat clash of last year’s final between Sindhu and defending champion Lindaweni Fanetri, the top-ranked Indonesian.
But the triumph of the day belonged to Aditya. Soon after Prannoy, seeded seven, packed off Iskandar’s compatriot Zulfadli Zuilkiffli in straight games, the unseeded Aditya filled Malaysia’s cup of woes.
Aditya’s superior fitness stood out in the 71-minute thriller. In a match full of rallies, after the lead changed hands several times in the first game, Aditya escaped a late surge from Iskandar by breaking free at 19-all.
Aditya, whose previous best in an international event was the semifinal appearance as a qualifier in the 2012 Tata Open in Mumbai, was 18-17 ahead in the second game but let Iskandar off the hook. In the decider, Aditya won six successive points to lead 17-12 and never looked back.
In men’s doubles, second seeds Pranav Jerry Chopra and Akshay Dewalkar reached the semifinals to keep alive India’s hopes of an honourable finish.
However, the home challenge ended in the women’s doubles with the exit of two pairs, including G. Jwala and Ashwini Ponnappa, who lost without a fight. Even in mixed doubles, as expected, Indians failed to survive.
The results (prefix denotes seeding): Pre-quarterfinals (Indians unless stated): Men: 7-H.S. Prannoy bt 12-Zulfadli Zuilkiffli (Mas) 21-19, 21-14; 6-K. Srikkanth bt 11-B. Sai Praneeth 19-21, 23-21, 24-22; Aditya Prakash bt 13-Iskandar Zulkarnain Zainuddin (Mas) 21-19, 18-21, 21-16; 9-Xue Song (Chn) bt 16-Subhankar Dey 21-18, 21-15.
Women: 1-Saina Nehwal bt 5-Bellaetrix Manuputy (Ina) 21-15, 21-15; 9-Deng Xuan (Chn) bt Jing Yi Tee (Mas) 21-11, 21-7; 4-Lindaweni Fanetri (Ina) bt Arundhati Pantawane 21-10, 21-7; 2-P.V. Sindhu bt 7-Hera Desi (Ina) 21-11, 21-13.
Other results (involving Indians): Men doubles: Kaixiang Huang & Siwei Zheng (Chn) bt 3-Manu Attri & Sumeeth Reddy 21-17, 21-13; 2-Pranav Jerry Chopra & Akshay Dewalkar bt 6-Andrei Adistia & Hendra Aprida Gunawan (Ina) 21-16, 21-12; Songphon Anugritayawon & Pakkawat Vilailak (Tha) bt K. Tarun & Jishnu Sanyal 21-14, 21-14.
Women doubles: Phataimas Muenwong & Kilasu Ostermeyer (Tha) bt G. Jwala & Ashwini Ponnappa 21-14, 21-11; 2-Vivian Kah Mun Hoo & Khe Wei Woon (Mas) bt Sanskriti Chhabra & Ekta Kalia 21-11, 21-6.
Mixed doubles: Yilv Wang & Muang Yaqiong (Chn) bt Arun Vishnu & Aparna Balan 21-14, 21-12.