Australian Open: Prannoy squanders match point, finishes runner-up

 Prannoy and Weng Hong Yang
H S Prannoy and Weng Hong Yang pose with the medals and trophy. Photo: AFP/Izhar Khan

Sydney: Indian shuttler H S Prannoy ended runner-up at the Australian Open after his gallant fight ended in a heart-breaking loss to China's Weng Hong Yang in a thrilling men's singles final here on Sunday.

Following a marathon 90 minutes of play, it was Prannoy who was left to bear the heartache as the 9-21, 23-21, 20-22 loss to world No. 24 Weng robbed him of a chance to win his second BWF World Tour title.

With the win, the 24-year-old Weng, who had won the Korea Open last year and 2019 China Masters, settled the scores against Prannoy after going down in three games to the Indian at the Malaysia Masters final in May.

Eight times this year, Prannoy has recovered from an opening game loss and went on to claim the match six times like he did against World No. 2 Anthony Ginting in the quarterfinals.

Prannoy makes an acrobatic return in the final. Photo: AFP/Izhar Khan

The script seemed to be going the same way before Weng staged a sensational comeback from 14-19 down in the decider.

Prannoy squandered a five-point lead in the decider and also a championship point to eventually finish second to Weng.

The 31-year-old from Kerala was error-prone in the first game, while Weng used his jump smashes to good effect to pull away from 6-6. With the Indian continuing to miscue his shots, the Chinese grabbed 12 game points when Prannoy again sprayed into net. The Chinese converted it when Prannoy went long.

Prannoy relishes such pressure cooker situation and once again held his nerve. Weng opened up a 3-0 lead but the Indian made it 2-4 with a booming smash.

Prannoy evened things at 7-7 with a smash and went into the lead after Weng's forehand went wide and Prannoy followed it with another smash. The Indian grabbed a three-point cushion with a forehand jump smash at the break.

Weng managed to hang in there with some fine placement but Prannoy kept his nose ahead at 13-11 with another cross winner. The Chinese kept breathing down his rival's neck with another push at the backline and clawed back at 15-15 with a body smash.

Weng produced a smash on Prannoy's forehand and soon wrested back the lead at 17-16. After a series of intense rallies, the duo was locked at 19-19 when Weng took a medical timeout.

On resumption, Prannoy unleashed a whipping backhand to grab a game point but he went wide. The Indian gained another game point after making a diving save on his left. Weng once again saved it with a deep cross smash.

At 21-21, Weng's forehand smash went wide to hand Prannoy his third game point and this time the Indian prevailed in a flat net exchange to take the match to the decider.

In the third game, Prannoy opened up a 6-3 lead with two precise returns on the backhand of his rival. But a few unforced errors from the Indian helped Weng to narrow it to 6-7.

Prannoy moved to 10-7 with another straight smash before entering the interval with a three-point advantage. The Indian continued to march ahead with Weng committing too many errors. He also sent down a precise straight smash to make it 15-9.

Prannoy patiently waited for opportunities and soon moved to 17-14. The Indian then unleashed another booming straight smash before coming up with a cross winner to make it 19-14.

Weng won the next three points and then played an exhausting 71-shot rally as Prannoy sent the shuttle to the net before both the players collapsed to the court.

Weng showed nerves of steel as a superb drop helped him to claw back at 19-19, his fifth straight point.

Prannoy then won a net duel to grab a championship point but Weng saved the point with a lucky net cord.

The Chinese then gained a championship point with a smash that crammed the Indian. Prannoy sent the shuttle long next to hand over the title to Weng.

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