Singapore City :
For the first time in the history of badminton, two Indians will clash in a Super Series final with Kidambi Srikanth taking on B Sai Praneeth at the Singapore Open on Sunday.
Former World No. 3 Srikanth on Saturday notched up a 21-13 21-14 win over World No. 26 and 2014 Youth Olympic Games bronze medallist Anthony Sinisuka Ginting to reach the third Super Series final of his career.
Earlier, Praneeth, who had reached the finals at the Syed Modi Grand Prix Gold in January before being laid low by a shoulder injury, continued his rampaging run in the tournament to thrash three-time Korea Masters Grand Prix Gold winner Lee 21-6 21-8 in a lop-sided semifinal match.
Only three nations—China, Indonesia and Denmark— have so far had two of their shuttlers playing in finals of a Super Series event.
Praneeth was the first to make it to the summit clash after he executed his plans brilliantly to completely blow away his opponent in a 38-minute match.
Srikanth, who had suffered a first-round exit at the India Open, then showed why he is considered one of the best Indian shuttlers right now as he fought back from 4-9 down in the opening game to never look back.
Interestingly, Praneeth has a 4-1 head-to-head record against his more illustrious compatriot, who had clinched the 2014 China Super Series Premier and 2015 India Super Series and also reached the quarterfinals of Rio Olympics.
The last time they clashed was at the Syed Modi Grand Prix Gold in Lucknow and Praneeth had the last laugh.
Praneeth, 24, who had clinched the Canada Open last year, showed excellent footwork near the forecourt and also produced some superb flicks from the baseline to completely outclass Lee, who simply couldn’t read the Indian’s game.
In the opening game, Praneeth, who had lost to the Korean at the 2015 Japan Open, grabbed a healthy 11-1 lead at the break and then toyed with his rival to grab the game easily.
His drop shots and swift net-play left the Korean completely dazed. Praneeth zoomed to a 9-1 lead in the second game. Lee managed to reduce the deficit to 4-10 before the Indian entered the break at 11-4.
Praneeth then made it 15-5, before reeling off five more points on the trot at 16-8 to seal his final spot.
It was long due for the Indian, who has had some big wins in the past, including victories over 2003 All England Champion Muhammad Hafiz, former World and Olympic champion Hashim of Malaysia Taufik Hidayat, and three-time Olympic silver medallist and World No. 1 Lee Chong Wei of Malaysia.
In the other semifinal, Ginting opened a 3-0 lead early on, leaving Srikanth to do the catch up act. However, from 4-9 down, Srikanth not only erased the deficit but also grabbed a slender 11-10 lead at the break.
In fact, the Indian reeled off five straight points to turn the tables. It was a disguised backhand push at the net which helped him to draw level before Ginting hit wide.
Srikanth continued in the same vein after the interval to move to 16-10 at one stage. He strengthened his defence and made the Indonesian run to the corners with his wristy game and then produced some whipping smashes.
Soon Srikanth reached 19-13. Ginting then miscued a net dribble to give Srikanth the game point and then hit long as the Indian pocketed the opening game.
After wrapping the opening game in 17 minutes, Srikanth continued to dominate the proceedings in the second as well. It seemed like one-way traffic with the Indian reaching 9-1 in no time.
Ginting grabbed three points to narrow the gap but Srikanth soon sped ahead at 11-6 with a towering smash.
After the interval, Ginting played better and engaged Srikanth in long rallies and tried to fox him with his wristy returns. He managed to narrow the margin to 14-17.
A long rally ensued which ended with Ginting throwing his racquet in the air after miscuing a shot at the net.
Srikanth then came up with a couple of down-the-line smashes and threw his hands up in the air in celebration when the Indonesian failed to reach for a return at the forecourt.
In women’s singles, Olympic winner Carolina Marin also entered her third consecutive Super Series final within three weeks after defeating Sung Ji Hyun of Korea 21-9 21-12.
The Spaniard had lost her previous two finals—India Open and Malaysia Open—at the hands of PV Sindhu and Tai Tzu Ying respectively. She would hope to cross the final hurdle when she faces TaI Tzu Ying again on Monday.