Malaysia Open: Satwik-Chirag fight back to reach semis, Prannoy goes down fighting

Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty in action How Foo Yeen/Getty Images

Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty mounted a superb comeback to reach the semifinals of the Malaysia Open Super 1000 while HS Prannoy exited in the quarterfinal after a three-game battle on Friday at the season-opening badminton tournament.

Satwik and Chirag fought back from a seven-point deficit in the second game to beat BWF World Tour Finals champions Liu Yu Chen and Ou Xuan Yi 17-21, 22-20, 21-9 in the men's doubles quarter-finals.

Earlier, Prannoy went down fighting to Japanese rising star Kodai Naraoka 16-21, 21-19, 10-21.

The Indian doubles pair, ranked fifth in the world, will next play another Chinese pair Liang Wei Keng and Wang Chang for a place in their first ever Super 1000 final.

In the quarters, both pairs were neck-and-neck in the first half of the first game before the Chinese pair, who had stunned fourth seeds Aaron Chia and Soh Wooil Yik. But the Chinese pair pulled ahead in the second half to gain advantage.

After the change of ends, Liu and Ou had the lead for most part, stretching it to 17-10 at on one point. Then came the best passage of play from the Indian as they overturned that deficit in a quick burst of points. The aggression worked in their favour as they levelled at 18-18 and then moved into the lead. The Chinese pair caught on soon and came close but the Indians didn't allow a single game point after that fightback and converted their second.

When asked what changed in the second game, Chirag's answer was succinct - We believed in ourselves.

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In the third game, this belief manifested into dominance as they raced away to a big lead and kept at it, conceding only 9 points. Quite the turnaround.

"In the first game in we were leading after the first 11 points but after that we didn't really have that rhythm. At 17-12 down we believed in our service and the first few strokes, that really helped us to get that burst of points from 17-12 to 19-18. That belief that we can actually catch the first few strokes and keep it below the net helped," Chirag said in the mixed zone.

Satwik added that their confidence as a pair was the key in that third-game sweep. "We could that they were not really confident, their body language was not like how they played in the first and second game. We were confident and we believed in ourselves, we played outright and we didn't have anything to lose. We were losing and from there we got a chance so we wanted to use it. When we got 11-6 lead we thought this was our game and we have to pick it up, no need to panic. We know mentally they will be down because they were leading and suddenly we won. So we were confident and played our game."

This confidence in their ability has made them one of the most-improved pair on tour and they will look to make a Super 1000 final for the first time on Saturday.

Prannoy exits

Earlier, Prannoy exited after a three-game battle high in quality and intensity against the 21-year-old Naraoka. The 30-year-old Indian had already played two straight three-game matches in his first two round and had maintained pace in this energy-sapping encounter. However, he seemed to run out of steam by the end.

Naraoka, who came into the match after knocking out home favourites second seed Lee Zii Jia in 73 minutes and Ng Tze Yong in 72 minutes, kept up his intensity till the end for a place in the semifinal. This was the Japanese player's third win over the Indian in as many meetings. He had defeated Prannoy in three games at the Singapore Open and World Tour Finals last year.

Prannoy - the new India No 1 - looked in good touch and will aim to do even better at the next tournament, which is the India Open at home next week.