Australian Open: Priyanshu beats Srikanth, to meet Prannoy in semifinal

Priyanshu Rajawat RICHARD A. BROOKS/AFP via Getty Images

HS Prannoy and Priyanshu Rajawat notched up contrasting wins to set up an exciting all-Indian men's singles semifinal clash while PV Sindhu exited at the Australian Open on Friday.

Orleans Masters champion Rajawat reached his first semifinal of a Super 500 tournament after knocking out compatriot Kidambi Srikanth 21-13, 21-8.

World number 9 Prannoy then showed his trademark grit as he fought back to beat top seed Anthony Sinisuka Ginting of Indonesia 16-21, 21-17, 21-14 in a 73-minute battle.

Sindhu, who has slipped to world No 17 following a series of early exits, was looking to make her fourth semifinal of the season but couldn't get past USA's world No 12 Beiwen Zhang, losing 12-21, 17-21 in 39 minutes.

The standout player of the day for India was 21-year-old Priyanshu, currently ranked 31 in the world, who showed his potential against veteran Srikanth.

He started the match strong and had a 11-6 lead at the interval. The former world No 1 narrowed down the lead to 11-13 after winning five of the next seven points, but Priyanshu broke off with a four-point burst to create a 19-13 gap which Srikanth couldn't bridge.

The second game was more lopsided. The young Indian was faster and more precise in his return and maintained his momentum to zoom to an 11-3 lead. He held on to that to eventually close out the match.

Priyanshu hails from Madhya Pradesh and had joined Pullela Gopichand's Gwalior academy at the age of 8. He was part of India's Thomas Cup winninh side and has steadily improved in the last 12 months, having stretched Ginting, Japan's Kodai Naraoka and compatriot Lakshya Sen to three games this season.

In another quarterfinal, Prannoy and Ginting came into the match with a 2-2 head-to-head record with the Olympic bronze medallist last having beaten the Indian at the All England Championships in March this year.

Prannoy, the sixth seed, started slow with Ginting dominating the rallies, leading 11-6 at the break. The Indian had his moments but the Indonesian kept a firm grip on the match, maintaining a four-point lead. At 14-19, Prannoy reeled off two quick points before Ginting prevailed to take a 1-0 lead.

The second game started on an even keel with the duo fighting close before Prannoy broke off at 9-9 to take a slender two-point lead at the break. He jumped to a 14-9 advantage before Ginting cut the deficit to 12-15. The Indian shuttler moved to seven-game points but squandered four of them before forcing the decider.

In the third game, Prannoy raced to 4-0 lead but Ginting managed to make it 7-8 before the Indian eked out an 11-7 advantage at the break. Prannoy extended his lead to 15-8 when Ginting scripted a fine recovery with five straight points to make it 13-15 but the Indian prevailed in the end.

Prannoy will go into the semifinal with a 1-0 advantage against Priyanshu at the BWF level, having beaten him at the Syed Modi International in 2022.

Meanwhile in women's singles, Sindhu's difficult season continued. In their 10 past meetings, Sindhu had beaten her opponent six times. But this version, still struggling after a five-month injury layoff last year, couldn't get going on Friday against the 33-year-old Zhang.

Sindhu had beaten compatriots Ashmita Chaliha and Aakarshi Kashyap in the first two rounds but her loss to Zhang would come as a big disappointment ahead of the World Championships later this month to be held in Copenhagen, Denmark.

With PTI Inputs