Star Indian shuttler H.S. Prannoy stormed into his second final of the season with a comprehensive straight-game win over young compatriot Priyanshu Rajawat at the Australian Open Super 500 badminton tournament here on Saturday.
The 31-year-old Prannoy rode on his power and precision to outwit the 21-year-old Rajawat 21-18 21-12 in the men's singles semifinals.
"It is very satisfying (to win), because it is always tough to play continuously against the top 10 players and beating them and if you look at the men's singles section, somebody from 30s and 40s is also very tough these days," Prannoy said after the win.
"Last two years have been good for me, I have been consistently able to pull off matches and this year has been special and I hope I can do something similar to what I did in Malaysia," he said.
The World number 9 Indian will square off against China's Weng Hong Yang in the summit clash on Sunday.
Interestingly, world number 24 Weng is the same opponent whom Prannoy had defeated in the final of the Malaysia Masters to win his first individual title in six years in May. It was also their only meeting so far in the international circuit.
"Weng is very tricky, he can play big matches. In last six months, he has gone out there and beaten a lot of big names. So it is not easy and especially being a left-hander, he has a lot of advantage over a lot of players. But finals is a final and I will go all out tomorrow," Prannoy said.
With the loss, Rajawat's impressive run this week ended with a first-ever Super 500 semifinal finish. Prannoy has looked in supreme touch throughout the week with his stunning come-from-behind win over world number 2 and top seed Anthony Ginting in the quarterfinals being the highlight.
Prannoy once again showed his capability to draw errors from his younger opponent Rajawat, who is known for his fast hand and leg speed and quick net play.
Rajawat began on a positive note with his service earning him a 2-0 lead but Prannoy slowly started constructing his points and pushed his young challenger to err, registering four straight points to move ahead.
Rajawat tried to step up the attack and two good-looking jump smashes helped him to draw parity at 7-7, but unforced errors continued to undo his good work as Prannoy enjoyed a two-point cushion at the interval.
The 21-year-old from Madhya Pradesh tried to stay in the rallies and grabbed four out of five points after resumption to keep snapping at his senior rival's heels.
Prannoy slumped into a pool of errors after the interval as Rajawat levelled the score at 14-14. The youngster managed to move neck-and-neck till 18-18.
However, a patient Prannoy grabbed two game points after unleashing a lethal smash and a backhand return and then sealed it comfortably to earn the bragging rights. Nothing much transformed after change of sides as Rajawat continued to struggle with his unforced errors, making life easy for Prannoy, who kept a high tempo and used his attacking play to open up a 5-2 lead early on.
Rajawat produced some good smashes but couldn't sustain the attack as his efforts often ended at the nets or wide of the court. The youngster, however, never stopped fighting and managed to claw back at 7-7 after winning four straight points, including a 41-shot rally.
It was when Prannoy sent one wide, found the net once and landed a cross court smash out while Rajawat produced a down-the-line smash. But such moments were too few as the senior Indian once again broke off to take a 11-7 advantage at the breather.
Prannoy maintained his four-point lead when Rajawat again went wide. The youngster kept breathing down his opponent's neck with a few more points, making it 11-13. But Rajawat couldn't keep up the work against the experienced Prannoy, who produced a late burst with a flurry of smashes to jump to 18-11 and soon grabbed eight match points and converted it at the first attempt.
The BWF World Tour is divided into six levels, namely World Tour Finals, four Super 1000, six Super 750, seven Super 500, and 11 Super 300 in order. One other category of tournament, the BWF Tour Super 100 level, also offers ranking points. The Super 500 is a Grade 2 (level 4) event in the BWF tournament ranking system.