K Srikanth was at his grittiest best as he shocked world No.1 Son Wan Ho for a place in the final but giant-killer H S Prannoy’s battle ended in agony at the USD 1,000,000 Indonesia Super Series Premier.
Srikanth fought like a man possessed to outclass Son Wan Ho 21-15 18-21 24-22 in an energy-sapping men’s singles match that lasted an hour and 12 minutes here.
After his stunning wins over Olympic silver-medallist Lee Chong Wei and Rio gold-medallist Chen Long, expectations were high from Prannoy but the Indian suffered a heart-breaking 21 -17 26-28 18-21 defeat to Japanese Kazumasa Sakai in a 77- minute men’s singles match.
Srikanth had a 2-4 head-to-head record against Son, having lost to the Korean four times in the last four meetings but all that didn’t matter today as he survived a battle of attrition at the Jakarta Convention Center (JCC). World No. 22 Srikanth will next face World No. 47 Sakai in the finals tomorrow.
This is the fourth Super Series final for Srikanth, who had reached the summit clash in Singapore in April and won the 2014 China Open and the 2015 India Open. Precision was the key as Srikanth and Son battled on, playing some excruciating rallies during the three-game thriller. Srikanth produced a compact net game and used his smashes to good effect against Son, who looked equally menacing with his never-say-die-attitude.
The duo were locked 3-3 initially but Srikanth slowly moved away to make it 11-6 with a backhand tap at the net which Son couldn’t negotiate. Srikanth, however, succumbed to a series of unforced errors to allow Son claw back to 10-12. But a couple of smashes helped the Indian to extend his lead to 18-13. After that, Srikanth’s smash touched the net chord and went over as he moved to 19-13. Son netted one to give the Indian a game point and he sealed it after conceding a point.
In the second game, Srikanth opened up a 4-2 lead before moving to 8-5 but Son managed to come back at 9-9 but he grabbed a slender 11-10 lead at interval. Srikanth moved to 13-10 but Son changed the course after the break as he slowly drew parity at 13-13 and then opened up an 18-14 lead. In the end, Son roared back into contest when Srikanth hit the net.
The decider turned out to be an edge-of-the-seat thriller as the duo battled tooth and nail right from the start, moving from 6-6 to 10-10. With Srikanth hitting out, Son grabbed a 11-10 lead at the break. Son moved to a 13-10 lead after the interval but Srikanth slowly levelled par at 14-14 with a clever shot on Son’s forehand. The duo moved neck-and-neck till 19-19.
Son then earned the match point when Srikanth’s back hand return got buried at the net. But the Korean failed to make it count and ended up hitting long. Srikanth’s return also went haywire but Son too hit long as it became 22-21 in favour of the Indian. However, his smash found the net next as the score read 22-22.
Srikanth then produced a precise crosscourt smash and then returned an onrushing shot from Son to raise his arms in celebration. Prannoy, on the other hand, bowed out after Sakai registered his second win over the Indian, following up after the victory at the 2013 edition.
In the first game, Prannoy and Sakai were locked 2-2 early on but the Indian soon moved ahead to first make it 4-2 before entering the break with a healthy 11-6 lead. He moved to a 19-15 lead and soon grabbed the game point. The second game was a roller-coaster ride as Sakai opened up a 5-1 lead and moved to 11-5 at the interval when Prannoy’s return went to the nets.
The duo engaged in fast-paced rallies and Prannoy managed to claw back at 18-18. The Indian grabbed the match point at 20-19 due to a lucky net chord point. However, he failed to convert it as lead exchanged hands too quickly.
In the end, Prannoy failed to negotiate another return from Sakai as the lead finally swung back to the Japanese at 27-26 and he sealed it this time when Prannoy’s miscued smash went to the net. In the third game, Sakai moved to a 6-4 lead early on and soon had a four-point advantage. The Japanese headed into the break with a slender 11-9 lead.
After the change of sides, Sakai extended his lead to 15 -11. Errors continued from Prannoy but he managed to narrow the margin to 17-18. But eventually, it was the Japanese who had the last laugh.