India’s HS Prannoy surprised everyone by winning the title in the recently concluded Swiss Grand Prix Gold Badminton tournament at Basel. The 24-year old Indian, who had a relatively easy passage into the final; defeated Germany’s Marc Zwiebler in the summit clash. However, among women, India’s Saina Nehwal crashed out in the semifinals. Nothing seems to be going right for Saina Nehwal in the Olympic year. The Indian ace has already lost her supreme ranking and she is not inspiring confidence on courts of late. She failed in the All-England and arrived in Basel to make amends at the Swiss Grand Prix Gold tournament. In a vastly watered down field, Saina had to fight to make it to the semifinals before she lost tamely to old foe Wang Yihan of China.
An impressive run by HS Prannoy of India culminated in his winning the 2016 Swiss Open at Basel. The 13th seeded Indian ranked 27 in the world, didn’t face tough opposition until he ran into England’s Rajiv Ouseph in the third round. But Prannoy played a solid match against Ouseph and defeated the Englishman 21-13, 21-18. However, it wasn’t so easy for Prannoy in quarterfinals and semifinals, where he had to play his best badminton to beat his opponents. In the quarterfinals, Prannoy was up against Thailand’s 16th seed Tanongsak Saensomboonsuk, who proved to be tough customer. After winning the first game, Prannoy lost the second but came back strongly in the decider to win at 21-18, 22-24, 21-9 in 59 minutes. In the semifinal, Prannoy took on Taiwan’s Tzu Wei Wang, who began by taking the first game from the Indian. However, Prannoy bounced back to take the next two games and entered the final with a 12-21, 21-14, 23-21 victory. There were three other Indians in men’s draw but all of them fizzled out midway through the tournament. While B Sai Praneeth and Sammer Verma progressed to the third round; Ajay Jayaram lost in his second round match.
For the title game last Sunday, HS Prannoy played against Germany’s Marc Zwiebler, who had beaten Sweden’s Henri Hurskainen 21-11, 10-21, 21-15 in the semifinal. But the German seventh seed did not pose much problem to Prannoy. The two exchanged leads in the first game, though none of them could obtain more than a 3-point advantage at any time. As the German led 18-17 in the first game, Prannoy reeled off 4 points in a row to take the game away from Zwiebler. In the second game, Prannoy looked a dominant player and led all the way before beating Zwiebler 21-18, 21-15 in 45 minutes.
Among women, India’s Saina Nehwal and PV Sindhu both featured in the draw. None of them, however, could make any impression as the tournament unfolded. While the sixth seeded Sindhu fell in the quarterfinal against the eventual champion He Bingjiao of China, top-seeded Saina managed to reach the semifinal, where she came face-to-face with China’s Wang Yihan. On Friday, Saina had played a tough three-game quarterfinal against Japan’s seventh seeded Sayaka Sato and probably carried the strains of that game against Yihan. But the third-seeded Chinese was classy and didn’t allow Saina any foothold in the 21-11, 21-19 victory in 40 minutes.
In the women’s final, Yihan faced her compatriot He Bingjiao and surprisingly found the unseeded player too hot to handle. Just 18 years of age, Bingjiao played a commanding game against her more fancied countrywoman and led the charge most of the time in the 35 minute match before winning at 21-16, 21-10. In the All-England Open, Bingjiao had lost to Yihan in the second round and the Swiss Open victory turned out to be a sweet revenge for the Chinese teenager.