India’s HS Prannoy fought hard before going down in three games to rising Japanese Kodai Naraoka in the opening men’s singles group A match at the BWF World Tour Finals on Wednesday.
The World No. 12 Indian showed superb recovery after the opening game reversal and kept fighting in the decider before three unforced errors at the back end saw him lose 11-21 21-9 17-21 to Naraoka in an hour long contest.
It was his second defeat to the Japanese, having suffered a loss in their only meeting in the Singapore Open in July.
“I thought I was in control for most part of the game but after 15-15 in the third game, I thought I started rushing and made errors from my end. Probably, it was a bad strategy, I should have been more patient,” the 30-year-old said after the match.
“Coming to the good side (after the change of ends in decider), I could have been more patient. I was doubting myself in a couple of areas in the third game. Maybe lack of match practice made it uncomfortable.”
Prannoy will next face China’s Lu Guang Zu, an opponent he had lost to in his only meeting at French Open this year.
“All the matches are going to be tough but I have to shrug it off and get ready for tomorrow’s match.”
Against the 21-year-old Naraoka, Prannoy, who was playing with a heavily strapped right knee, tried to make up for his lack of speed with his superior net play.
After Naroaka jumped to a 6-3 early lead, the Indian calmly narrowed it down to 6-7 but the Japanese managed to enter the mid-game interval with a healthy five-point advantage when Prannoy’s shot went long.
Prannoy produced some effortless smashes on his rival’s backhand but he struggled with the length to give away points.
Naraoka produced a quick body return and also unleashed some angled returns to quickly move to 16-7. A lovely straight smash helped Prannoy move to double figures.
However, with Prannoy not able to lunge forward due to his knee niggle, Naraoka quickly pocketed the opening game with a booming straight smash.
After the change of sides, Prannoy came up with a different plan to upset the rhythm of his opponent as he kept the shuttle on the back court and extracted errors out of Naraoka.
The ploy worked as he had a 11-5 cushion at the interval.
The Indian kept a firm grip to dominate the proceedings after resumption and roared back into the contest with another precise backhand smash.
In the decider, both the players looked to step up the pace in the rallies but Naraoka had better control as he led 5-2. But Prannoy then reeled off four straight points with the help of a couple of steep returns.
Naraoka made it 8-8 with a placement at Prannoy’s forehand corner and the other at the fore court before sending one out. However, two wide shots from the Indian saw the Japanese hold a two-point advantage at the break.
After the interval, Naraoka stayed a step ahead in the rallies even though Prannoy managed to claw back at 14-14 and 17-17. But then some errors put paid to his hopes.
At 17-18, Prannoy smashed one on to the net as Naraoka stayed two points away from a win. The Indian then sent one wide to hand his opponent three match points.
The Japanese sealed it when the Indian made another error at the net.