The fantastic run of India's H.S. Prannoy in the BWF World Championships came to an end in the final as he went down to former world junior champion Kunlavut Vitidsarn in a hard-fought men’s singles semifinal on Saturday.
The world No.9 Indian began the semifinal clash on a strong note and clinched the opening game with an aggressive approach. But the effort of beating two former world champions in marathon encounters in the earlier rounds seemed to catch up with him as he went down to the third seed from Thailand, 21-18, 13-21, 14-21 in the 76-minute encounter.
Prannoy will now bring home the country’s only bronze medal from the 2023 edition of the championships, becoming the fifth Indian male player after Prakash Padukone (bronze - 1953), B Sai Praneeth (bronze - 2019) and Kidambi Srikanth (silver - 2021) and Lakshya Sen (bronze 2021).
In the opening game on Saturday, Prannoy adopted a simple game plan of not allowing Vitidsarn to settle into any sort of rhythm. He was good at anticipating his opponent's cross-court smashes and opened up an 11-5 lead at the mid-game interval after winning seven straight points from a 4-5 deficit.
The 31-year-old Indian, star of India's Thomas Cup triumph. was put under pressure thereafter by VItidsarn but kept his nerves to convert the second game point.
With the momentum in his favour, Prannoy opened up a 4-0 lead in the second game before Vitidsarn slowed the game down, forcing his opponent to take more risks while going for the winners. The ploy worked as he won five consecutive points to take an 11-7 lead at the midgame interval.
The Thai shuttler was in complete control after that as he forced a decider and it felt like Prannoy needed to summon up all his reserves to keep his hopes of making the final alive.
Prannoy began aggressively again but Vitidsarn relied on his defence to force the Indian into long rallies tiring him further.
And once the players changed ends with the Indian shuttler trailing 7-11, it was always an uphill task for him to close the gap. A wide smash after an hour and 16 minutes from Prannoy meant that Vitidsarn would be playing in his second consecutive World Championship final, in which he will face the winner of the match between Kodai Naraoka of Japan and Anders Antonsen of Denmark.
Meanwhile, in New Delhi, the Badminton Association of India (BAI) General Secretary Sanjay Mishra congratulated Prannoy on his bronze-winning effort.
“It has been a remarkable week for Prannoy. Defeating two former world champions is not an easy task. This Bronze medal is a testament to his hard work, dedication and perseverance.
"We at the Badminton Association of India are very proud of our shuttlers as we have continued our medal-winning streak at the BWF World Championships since 2011. I wish Prannoy more success at the upcoming competitions,” he was quoted as saying in a release on Saturday.