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Prannoy wins Malaysia Masters to claim maiden World Tour title


KUALA LUMPUR: Star Indian shuttler HS Prannoy ended a six-year long title drought with a three-game win over China’s Weng Hong Yang in a pulsating men’s singles finals at the Malaysia Masters Super 500 tournament here on Sunday.

The 30-year-old Indian showed great composure and resolve during a 94-minute battle to notch a 21-19 13-21 21-18 victory against China’s world number 34 Weng Hong Yang, a 2022 Asian Championships bronze medallist. The win helped him to claim his maiden BWF (Badminton World Federation) World Tour title and also the first singles crown of the year for India.

On Sunday, all his hard work paid off as the world number nine Prannoy finally broke the jinx, dishing out a superlative performance against the 23-year-old from China in a battle of attrition.

This week, Prannoy gave ample display of his physical and mental fortitude as he outfoxed his opponents -world number five Chou Tien Chen, All England champion Li Shi Feng and Japan’s Kenta Nishimoto -- in three games. The Indian used his angled returns to create chances and his economical court mobility helped him to keep pace with his quick left-handed opponent.

From 1-3 down, he drew parity at 5-5 after lunging forward to put the shuttle away from Weng. The Chinese stepped ahead but two wide shots meant it was 7-7. A precise down-the-line smash brought the Indian back at 10-10 before Weng smashed on the net.

Prannoy kept a conservative approach as the rallies extended. Soon the duo moved to 16-16. After missing out on a few net shots, Prannoy grabbed a couple of points before a relentless attack earned him two game points. He was guilty of giving a midcourt return and it was punished. Weng next sent his backhand to net, as Prannoy earned the bragging rights.

After the change of sides, Weng was 4-0 up after Prannoy went for a flashy return at the net and also hit long twice. A big smash followed by a backhand snap shot got Prannoy going as he moved to a 5-4 lead with a superb backhand block.

In a game of fine margins, the duo tried to play tighter shots and Weng managed to grab an 11-9 cushion at the interval. Prannoy then hit an erroneous patch, finding the net and also missing the lines, and suddenly, it became 16-10 in favour of Weng.

Soon Weng grabbed seven game points with a cross court return and converted with a precise return on the backline to force a decider.

In the third game, Weng held on to his momentum even as Prannoy kept snapping at his feet at 6-8. A net kill helped the Indian draw level at 8-8 before Weng ended an exciting rally with a smash.

After resumption, Prannoy unleashed his cross court smashes to move to 14-11. Weng produced a precise smash and then targeted his rival’s body twice to narrow it down to 13-14.

Prannoy let out a loud cry after a cross court smash, opening up a 16-13 lead. Looking for precision, Prannoy however missed the lines a few times and another such long shot helped Weng to make it 18-18.

Another magical smash, which just kissed the lines, gave Prannoy two championship points, and he converted it after his opponent hit wide.

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