Srikanth downs Prannoy, faces Dane hurdle on road to final

Kidambi Srikanth of India competes in the Men's Singles second round match against Kento Momota of Japan on day three of the Denmark Open at Odense Sports Park on October 21, 2021 in Odense, Denmark. Shi Tang/Getty Images

It was back in 2017 that Kidambi Srikanth last made two Super Series semi-finals in three weeks. On Friday, he did it again, beating fellow Indian HS Prannoy 21-7, 21-18 for a last-four spot in the Indonesia Masters Super 750.

Prannoy, who'd earned the scalp of Olympic champion Viktor Axelsen only a day ago, struggled with the length of his shots and anticipation on some occasions - like the net kill he seemed certain to have pulled off, only to set it up nicely for Srikanth to pluck early and push to the backline. It would bring up a six-point cushion for the former world No 1 Indian at the mid-game interval.

The second game was a closer affair, with Prannoy asserting himself in a couple of net exchanges at the start but the errors kept snagging at his flight. The 39-minute face-off, their first since the Japan Open in 2019, was the briefest time Srikanth spent on court so far all week. Both his earlier round matches - against Christo Popov and Jonathan Christie - were three-game affairs.

The slow shuttles in Bali decelerate quicker and fall short of expected distance. They can take the bite off attacking shots and aren't one that Srikanth, with a game built around offense, would opt for if he had a choice. In Saturday's semifinals, he faces world No 3 Anders Antonsen of Denmark. Since 2019, they've played each other twice, with Antonsen prevailing on both occasions.

Growing up, the six-footed young Dane hung around the badminton club his father worked in, in Aarhus, and had Viktor Axelsen as his sparring partner over recent years, until the latter shifted base to Dubai. Antonsen carries a dangerous attacking style of play and the ability to operate at a good pace which saw him pick apart Axelsen's game in the World Tour Finals at the start of the year. However, he hasn't had too many great results in recent months. The farthest he has traveled in a tournament before this was the Tokyo Games where he made the quarterfinals.

Srikanth's gritty run through the last week is indicative of his hunger to rediscover his lost form. Through the past couple of weeks, his spinning net shots and patented follow-ups have returned to life. However, he still remains averse to long rallies and his body needs to hold up for him to close out tight matches more often. It's perhaps why he was particularly chuffed with the manner of his victory over Jonatan Christie in the pre-quarterfinals this week. Between the two, Srikanth has shown greater consistency in recent tournaments. If he can push the pace, pin the Dane to the back of the court and time his attacks well, he might stand a good chance.

A win tomorrow would count for a first final for Srikanth in 32 months. He knows he's waited long enough.