Kerala shuttler HS Prannoy won his first senior Gold medal at the men's singles event of the Indonesian Masters Grand Prix, defeating local boy Firman Abdul Kholik in the final held at the Dempo Sports Hall, in Palembang, Indonesia, on Sunday.
The Indian, who was seeded fifth in the tournament, comprehensively beat Indonesian Kholik in just over 40 minutes, with a score line of 21-11, 22-20.
"I am happy. Winning a Grand Prix Gold...Never thought of it at this stage of my career. But I always knew that I had it in me to win a big title," Prannoy told The Times of India.
17-year-old Firman struggled to cope with the smashes by the Youth Olympic Games Silver medallist from India, as the latter moved on to an easy 6-2 lead. From then on, he never allowed Firman to make a comeback, and clinched the first game. The Indonesian youngster looked quite nervous during this stretch of play, and it did not look as if he wanted to take any risks. Hence, Prannoy capitalized on this opportunity, and raced into the lead 21-11.
However, the Indonesian did well in the second game to make a comeback and give the 22-year-old Prannoy a good run for his money. He changed his strategy and tried to keep the shuttle low, in order to avoid Prannoy's smashes. The ploy seemed to be working for the young Indonesian, as he went ahead 16-15 in the second game. Prannoy, however, soon changed his strategy and started playing long rallies, waiting for Firman to make a mistake.
"He was too good in the second game and never allowed me to attack," said Prannoy. "But I waited patiently and kept the rally on to the end. May be due to pressure he started making mistakes."
Firman, however, was not about to go down without a fight, as he saved three match-points, to level the game at 20-20. In the end, however, the Indian prevailed to win his maiden Grand Prix Gold.
"This is my first international tournament. Even though I lost, I'm quite satisfied [with how I played]. He was stronger and faster," said Firman.
The 22-year-old from Kerala dedicated his maiden Grand Prix victory to his mentor Pullela Gopichand, or "Gopi anna", as he is fondly called. Prannoy's previous career milestone was winning the Silver Medal at the 2010 Summer Youth Olympics.