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Game for final service

Express News Service

CHENNAI: Kidambi Srikanth, HS Prannoy and the rest of the Indian men badminton stars have already etched their name in the history books with some brave performances. Having punched above their weight to reach the final of the ongoing Thomas Cup in Bangkok, the first time ever for India men shuttlers, they will be hoping to go all the way on Sunday. But that will take another out-of-the-world team effort as they take on Indonesia, a team whose DNA is built on winning. The defending champions have won on as many as 14 occasions, most in the history of the competition.

Entering the final with that reputation, Indonesia hold the edge over India. But the Indians have nothing to lose. And if Lakshya Sen, who has lost his last three matches, can find his mojo in the opening rubber, the momentum could shift in India’s favour. And that is not farfetched as Anthony Ginting, Tokyo bronze medalist, has shown his vulnerabilities against Indians. Earlier this year, both Lakshya (German Open) and Prannoy (Swiss Open) had tasted success against him. Having said that, Ginting will be fueled after his win against World No 2 Kento Momota, his first over the Japanese since French Open 2019.

Where Indonesia’s strength lies in is the doubles category. In Mohammad Ahsan, Hendra Setiawan, Kevin Sanjaya (some of the elite names in doubles), they hold the psychological edge. But the Indian pair of Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty, who continue to evolve with each new experience, have proven to be a thorn for the Indonesians. The India duo had beaten Ahsan and Setiawan during the India Open to make history. The Indonesians have experimented with different playing partners in the event so far and no matter who lines up opposite the Indians, the first doubles rubber is bound to be a real eye-grabber.

Then comes Srikanth into the equation. He’s clearly a man in form and his strokeplay so far has attested to that. With five wins out of five matches, it goes without saying he has had a strong hand in India’s historic run. And he’ll most likely be up against a familiar rival in Jonathan Christie, against whom he holds a 4-5 head-to-head record. That could be a fascinating see-saw contest.

Where the Indian team is clearly seem undercooked is the second doubles rubber. With new faces (Krishna Prasad Garaga, Vishnuvardhan Goud Panjala, MR Arjun, Dhruv Kapila), they lack the nous (which is understandable) to operate at pressure situations and that could be hold the team back. Indonesia will be expected to use that weakness to their advantage. Keeping that in mind, Prannoy might be summoned yet again to play the decisive hand.

History in reckoning

With India facing Indonesia in the final on Sunday, a look at the format, why it’s a big deal and how India made the final…

Format: The current avatar sees three singles ties and two doubles ties with no player allowed to play more than one match. The best ranked singles players from both teams kick-start the tie before the best ranked doubles players face each other and so on.

Big deal: Unlike in recent iterations of the Davis Cup, most of the world’s best shuttlers routinely take part in this. With their performances counting towards ranking points as well as national pride, it ranks highly.

Depth: Emergence of Lakshya Sen as a top-10 player has helped India. Even if he himself hasn’t delivered the points (1-3), it has allowed Srikanth (5-0) & Prannoy (5-0) to play against a majority of players ranked outside the top-10.

Likely final match-up

MS 1 Lakshya vs Ginting
MD1 Sukamuljo/Ahsan vs Rankireddy/ Shetty
MS2 Srikanth vs Christie
MD 2 Garaga/ Panjala vs Alfian/ Ardianto
MS3 Prannoy vs Rhustavito

Full story: newindianexpress.com

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