After over 10 years and more than a 100 Superseries tournaments, India will finally have an all-Indian semi-final at a Superseries event when HS Prannoy takes on Kidambi Srikanth in the semi-finals of the French Open on Saturday. Prannoy became the first Indian man to reach the last four in Paris, with World No. 4 Srikanth following him soon after by fighting back from a one-game deficit to claim victory against second seed Shi Yuqi.
In the women's draw, PV Sindhu made her third Superseries semi-final this year after dismantling Chinese teenager Chen Yufei in straight games in a one-sided match. Here is a look at the Indian trio's chances of advancing to the final:
PV Sindhu (2) vs. Akane Yamaguchi (5), 7 pm (approx)
Head-to-head: Sindhu leads 3-1
Sindhu - Won 34, Lost 9
Yamaguchi - Won 42, Lost 12
Recent record (last 10 matches):
Sindhu - Won 8, Lost 2
Yamaguchi - Won 8, Lost 2
Along with World No. 1 Tai Tzu Ying, Japan's Yamaguchi has been the most consistent player in Superseries events this year. The 20-year-old Japanese will contest her sixth Superseries semi-final, but has not yet gone on to win the title, in 2017. On the other hand, Sindhu has only played two Superseries semi-finals this year but has won the title on both occasions (India Open and Korea Open).
Sindhu has had a stranglehold over Yamaguchi in head-to-head meetings, winning each of their last three matches. Sindhu, with her significant height advantage over Yamaguchi, has mostly tried to attack the Japanese with cross-court smashes in those previous matches.
Yamaguchi's playing style is similar to that of compatriot Nozomi Okuhara but, due to her more aggressive style, Yamaguchi tends to commit more errors than Okuhara. Yamaguchi will be playing her ninth match in 11 days while Sindhu will be playing just her fourth match in the same duration. Fatigue could prove to be a significant factor as Yamaguchi had to battle for an hour and 19 minutes in her quarter-final against South Korea's Sung Ji Hyun.
Yamaguchi was the runner-up at last week's Denmark Open but will start as the underdog in this match with Sindhu looking to reach three Superseries finals in a year for the first time.
Prediction: Sindhu in two games
Kidambi Srikanth (8) vs. HS Prannoy, 7 pm (approx)
Head-to-head: Srikanth leads 2-1
Srikanth - Won 35, Lost 8
Prannoy - Won 29, Lost 12
Recent record (last 10 matches):
Srikanth - Won 9, Lost 1
Prannoy - Won 7, Lost 3
2017 is easily the best year in the careers of both Srikanth and Prannoy. While Srikanth has won three Superseries title and reached five semi-finals (joint-most with current World No. 2 Son Wan Ho of South Korea), Prannoy has defeated Lee Chong Wei twice and Chen Long once besides reaching the last four in two Superseries tournaments.
The two Gopichand Academy products, good friends off the court, have a similar playing style and are two of the most captivating players on the international circuit to watch when in full flow.
Prannoy has yet to reach a Superseries final but will be the more fresh of the two players as Srikanth, like Yamaguchi, will also be playing his ninth match in 11 days, having won the Denmark Open. Srikanth looked visibly fatigued in the first game of his quarter-final before pulling through in a tight second game and then running away with the decider.
Srikanth's best chance to win this match may lie in keeping it to two games by getting off to a good start in each game. Both players have a powerful smash and a very good backhand but Srikanth is the better mover and has a greater variety of shots, especially at the net. With their propensity to attack, keeping the unforced error count low will be key for both players.
Prediction: Srikanth in two games