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Axelsen vs Prannoy: How the Dane's endurance overpowered Indian's skills

India's HS Prannoy led 1-0 and 7-1 in the second game before Viktor Axelsen fought a battle against his frustrations and the Indian's skills to win the match in thrilling three sets

HS Prannoy vs Viktor Axelsen. Photo: BWF Website

HS Prannoy vs Viktor Axelsen. Photo: BWF Website

Abhishek Singh New Delhi

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At one point in the game when the scoreline read 14-12 in the second set in favour of HS Prannoy, who already led the match 1-0 against world number one Viktor Axelsen of Denmark, the Indian almost left the shuttle, before picking it from near ground level and send it to the backcourt. In the next shot of that rally, the Dane tried the same, but hit the net. 

It turned out to be the last big mistake from Axelsen as he got the better of the world number 10 to win the Japan Open men’s singles quarterfinal and march into the semis of the Super 750 tournament. 

The match might have ended with a scoreline of 19-21, 21-18 and 21-8 in favour of the 29-year-old European, but Prannoy made it one of the best games to watch on tour this year.

Frustrations followed by Jubilations for the Dane

Having lost the first game 19-21 after leading it for the most part, number one seed Axelsen looked frustrated. With Prannoy taking longer time to serve and breaking the momentum when six-foot-five Dane eventually started to win some points, it made Axelsen lose his temper. He even served one long, which is not expected from the two-time world champion. 

However, getting a hold of his game, Axelsen started to fight his way back. He won four straight points from being 1-7 down to make it 5-8. Prannoy though came back and won three points to lead at the mid-game interval 11-8.

The downfall of Prannoy

In the second game at 13-15, Prannoy lost back-to-back points and it became 15-all. Soon after he lost the lead for the first time in the second game which the top-ranked Indian singles player had dominated till then. There were continuous unforced errors and silly mistakes on the part of the Kerala-born as he trailed 17-18 eventually. 

Graph showing break-up of the points won by Viktor Axelsen and HS Prannoy in game two of the men's singles quarterfinal of Japan Open 2023. Photo: BWF World Tour website
Green- Axelsen, Yellow- Prannoy. Graph showing break-up of the points won by Viktor Axelsen
and HS Prannoyin game two of the men's singles quarterfinal of
Japan Open 2023. Photo: BWF World Tour website

A huffing and puffing Prannoy, sitting at the player’s chair on the sideline, after challenging a line call, dearly hoped that his challenge would be saved. But neither was the point nor the challenge saved. Axelsen took the second game 21-18 to make it 1-1 in the last-eight encounter in Tokyo. 

Axelsen’s endurance overpowers Prannoy’s skills in the third set

Everyone, including Prannoy himself, knew that if the game went to the third set, his Danish opponent would become favourites to win it and that’s what happened. At six-foot-five inches, Axelsen manages to cover the court with his swift movement while Prannoy at nearly six feet (178 cm) would not have the same advantage. 

Prannoy at 32, is older than the Dane who is only 29. With more running across the court, Prannoy already looked drained out at the start of the third set while the winner of two Super 1000 tournaments on the tour this year- Axelsen was in no visible discomfort. 

Yet, the Malaysian Masters' winner Prannoy led the third set 2-1 with a brilliant cross-court shot in a 34-shot rally. It turned out to be the longest rally of the match. But then Axelsen won back-to-back points to make it 4-4

Seven straight points by Axelsen forced the mid-game interval where he led 11-5 in the third and final set. Continued unforced errors from Prannoy meant he failed to finish points. The Indian who has a 20-12 win-loss record this season, finally won a point after losing seven on the trot. He did it through a cross-court smash to make it 6-12 in third set. Unreal defence from Axelsen saw him surge to 14-6 lead.

It seemed like Prannoy had given up as his coaches on the sidelines wore deserted looks and so did the player, but just after that came a brilliant cross-court smash from him to take a point and make it 7-16. However, Axelsen was in no mood to let any points slip up as he finished the game 21-8 to win the match. Earlier in game one, Prannoy trailed for most of it before levelling at 17-17 and then taking the lead at 20-19 and winning it 21-19.

Graph showing break-up of the points won by Viktor Axelsen and HS Prannoy in game one of the men's singles quarterfinal of Japan Open 2023. Photo: BWF World Tour website
Green- Axelsen, Yellow- Prannoy.Graph showing break-up of the points won by Viktor Axelsen and HS Prannoy
in game one of the men's singles quarterfinal of Japan Open 2023. Photo: BWF World Tour website


 
This was the ninth meeting between the two players and with a win, Axelsen leads 7-2 in the head-to-head battle. Axelsen will now play home favourite Japan’s Kodai Naraoka in the semi-final on July 29. In the other men’s singles semis, India’s only remaining challenge, Lakshya Sen will take on Indonesia’s Jonathan Christie.

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First Published: Jul 28 2023 | 6:06 PM IST

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