NEW DELHI: HS Prannoy produced a lion-hearted effort in the decisive fifth match as the India men’s team scripted history by reaching the Thomas Cup title clash for the first time with a 3-2 victory in an edge-ofthe-seat semi-final here.
The India team showed tremendous fighting spirit on Friday as it came from a match down to outwit 2016 champion Denmark. While Kidambi Srikanth as well as the doubles pairing of Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty kept India in the hunt, Prannoy took the team home after the tie was locked 2-2.
Up against Rasmus Gemke, Prannoy suffered an ankle injury after slipping on the front court while going for a return. But, the Indian continued after taking a medical timeout. He was in pain and his on-court movement looked restricted but despite all odds, he produced a sensational performance to come up trumps 13-21, 21-9, 21-12.
At the start, a lot rode on Lakshya Sen, given his recent win over Viktor Axelsen at the German Open Super 300, but he could not replicate his performance as the World No.1 scripted a comfortable 21-13, 21-13 win to hand Denmark a 1-0 lead.
Denmark decided to split Kim Astrup and Anders Skaarup Rasmussen into two halves with Astrup partnering Mathias Christiansen in the first doubles match. However, Satwiksairaj and Chirag dished out a gritty performance, holding their nerves in the final stages to beat Astrup and Christiansen 21-18, 21-23, 22-20 and bring India back in the contest.
The India pair faced five match points – two in the second game and three in third game – before converting one. With the tie locked 1-1, Srikanth and Anders Antonsen engaged in a battle of supremacy in the second singles match, with the former coming out on top with a 21-18, 1221, 21-15 result to give India a 2-1 lead.
India’s second doubles combination of Krishna Prasad Garaga and Vishnuvardhan Goud Panjala, however, was no match for Rasmussen and Frederik Sogaard, losing 14-21, 13-21, as the tie was tantalisingly posed at 2-2 after the fourth match.
Prannoy lost the opening game but, quite incredibly, led 11-1 in the second game despite injury. He depended more on his attack to gather points even as Gemke failed to create pressure. Prannoy dominated the front court and soon roared back into contest with Gemke committing too many errors.
With the Impact Arena reverberating with chants of “HSP”, Prannoy grabbed nine match points in the decider with a straight down the line smash. He sealed it on the second opportunity as his teammates huddled together in celebration.