BWF Malaysia Masters: HS Prannoy wins first World Tour title with big win against Weng HY

India's H.S. Prannoy poses on the podium after winning the 2023 Malaysia Masters. Arif Kartono/AFP via Getty Images

HS Prannoy has won the BWF Malaysia Masters final after a marathon 21-19, 13-21, 21-18 win against China's Weng Hong Yang. It is his first BWF World Tour title, i.e., since the BWF calendar took its current form - his last major victory had come at the US Grand Prix in July 2017 (now a Super 300 event).

He's the first Indian man to win a BWF title since Lakshya Sen's triumph in the India Open in Jan 2022.

The world no.9 Indian took a tough route to the big prize in Kuala Lampur -- defeating Chou Tien Chou, Li Shi Feng, and Kenta Nishimoto before a thriller of a semifinal was cut short by Christian Adinata's knee injury. All three of his completed matches had gone the distance this tournament and it was the same in this final.

The first game of the final was all about Prannoy's technique and class: he kept things safe but accurate and forced the 23-year-old Chinese into errors on key points.

Weng won the first point after a long rally where the two seemed to measure up each other in this first meeting between the two. A quick exchange of points followed before Prannoy's clever maneuvering of Weng allowed him to finish with an emphatic down the line smash to make it 3-3. This was a trick Prannoy repeated throughout, outmaneuvering his much younger opponent around the court, targeting his overhead takes on the backhand side, before finishing off points with powerful smashes. Weng, though, stayed in it for the most part through his superb play at the net. The faster of the two, his reflexes and clean touch were often too much for Prannoy, like when he made it 11-11 immediately after Prannoy had taken a single point lead at the break.

Prannoy soon motored into a 15-12 lead with more smart movement across the court: minimizing his own and pushing Weng to all corners. Weng responded with a quick flurry of points that took it to 15-15. At this point came one of the rallies of the match as Weng and Prannoy exchanged angled drops at the net; before an over-eager Prannoy conceded a foul by taking his return from Weng's side of the net. At 15-16, Prannoy would have been under immense pressure - especially considering his title drought and tendency to produce inconsistent performances against lower-ranked opponents - but he held his own to make it 18-16 with a quite incredible disguised slice. Aiming to end a long rally with a crosscourt smash he jumped and twisted his wrists at the last second to leave Weng stranded. A quick exchange of points took it to 19-18 before a wild backhand fling from Weng went long to give Prannoy the game 21-19.

The second game, though, showcased the best of the world no.34 Chinese player's abilities. Starting aggressively, he zoomed into a 4-0 lead before being pegged back to 4-4 but he was able to pull a little clear again after an incredible angled drop from the centre (Tai Tzu Ying style) made it 7-5. Another superb combination (smash down the line followed immediately by disguised cross-court drop) then made it 11-9 for Weng at the break.

Prannoy became strangely passive at this point and Weng raced to a very quick 17-10 lead before closing out the game at 21-13. The last point coming through a point that underlined Prannoy's passivity as he simply looked on and allowed a Weng clear to float gently in.

Then came an epic third game in which Prannoy went flat-out from the get-go, aiming for the lines with each shot, pushing Weng all across the court and testing his reflexes at every opportunity.

Weng took the first point with a touch of incredible delicacy, gently asking the shuttle to drop dead across the net, but Prannoy responded with violence - thumping a jump smash down the line. Weng's defence was on it's A-game, though, and his reflexes allowed him to take an early 5-2 lead as Prannoy kept pushing harder.

Prannoy's aggression, though, soon started allowing him to control rallies: exemplified with a superb left-right smash combo that took the game to 8-8. The next four points showcased the best of each players' qualities - Weng's defence at the net and Prannoy's ability to switch from passive control to kill-rally-mode in an instant as they made it 10-10.

Prannoy then eased out into a 13-10 lead, but Weng looked to be pulling back at 13-11... when the next point was decided by an early Prannoy smash to the face that made it 14-11. As he kept aiming for the lines, Prannoy missed a couple too to make it 17-15 but he didn't waver from the strategy. He made it 18-16 with aggressive badminton - aiming for the line at the far corner, and finding it.

Weng, who had taken out Lin Chun Yi, Ng Ka L.A, Anthony Ginting and Kento Momota to get to the final, wasn't about to roll over. He made it 18-18 with some aggressive attacking of his own, the final point coming off a smash that thumped into Prannoy's face.

Once again, though, at a point where crumbling is a real possibility, Prannoy held his nerve superbly. A rapid one-two smash combo, a down the line smash that just about kissed the line (it was about half a milimetre in) and an unreturnable crosscourt smash closed the game, and the championship out.

After a year of great struggle for the Indian singles players on the BWF tour, this win comes as a bright spark. And it was delivered to them by the star of last year's Thomas Cup triumph. He may have struggled with injuries and consistencies for most of the past few years, but now he finally has a Tour title to his name. It's been a while coming, but what a way to do it, Prannoy Haseena Sunil Kumar.