Both Lakshya Sen and the duo of Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty will play their first Super 500 finals.

World Championships bronze medallist Lakshya Sen overcame a stiff challenge from Malaysia’s Tze Yong Ng 19-21, 21-16, 21-12 in the semi-finals of the Yonex-Sunrise India Open 2022, which is part of the HSBC BWF World Tour tournament series, on Saturday.

The hard-earned victory in an hour and seven minutes in his debut appearance at the Yonex Sunrise India Open 2022 also assured him his first final at the Super 500 level or above on the BWF Tour.

He will now face World Champion Loh Kean Yew in the summit clash. The Singaporean received a walkover in the semi-finals after Canada’s Brian Yang opted out due to sore throat and headache.

Third seed Sen was the overwhelming favourite against world No. 60 Ng but if expected an easy outing the tall Malaysian was in a different mood. Both players started the match with fast paced rallies with the lead changing hands at regular intervals of the India Open 2022 clash.

Sen then opened up a 14-10 lead before a flurry of errors allowed Ng to stage a comeback. The Malaysian won seven consecutive points to regain the lead and even though the home favourite managed to level the scores at 17-17, the momentum definitely in his favour.

Ng began the second game with the same tempo and opened up a 4-1 lead before Sen’s solid defence dug himself out of a hole and found a winner on the next shot. The point probably gave the Indian the required self-belief and he began to assert himself a lot more.

The 20-year-old began to mix things up, playing softer drops to open up the court for an opportunity to hit winners with his cross-court smashes. Ng did manage to keep pace with the Indian till the mid-game interval but Sen was in total control thereafter as he forced a decider.

Sen wasn’t going to let the momentum slip as he had figured out that NG wasn’t really comfortable with his toss-drop routine. The Malaysian did try to prolong rallies and keep the shuttle in play but it wasn’t enough as the Indian could find a way to hit the winners.

With his opponent tiring a bit, Sen clinched five straight points to end Ng’s resistance and reach his first Super 500 final at the India Open 2022.

“The first game was really fast and he managed to win some close points at the end to win it. I stuck to my game plan in the next two games and it worked well for me,” he said.

Speaking about the final, Sen said, “It’s a good feeling to play my first Super 500 final at my home. Fans are not allowed this time but there were a few people in the stadium who were supporting me and it felt good.”

Sunday’s final between Loh and Sen would be their fourth meeting this year with the world champion winning two of the three earlier matches. Their overall head-to-head record stands at 2-2.

Speaking about the India Open 2022 final against Loh, Sen said he was confident of a good match.

In the day’s other matches, India Open 2022 men’s doubles top seeds Hendra Setiawan and Mohammad Ahsan defeated Malaysia’s Ong Yew Sin and Teo Ee Yi 21-15, 21-18 to reach the final.

India’s only semi-finalists in India Open 200 women’s doubles category, Haritha MH and Ashna Roy went down 21-12, 21-9 against fourth seeds Benyapa Aimsaard and Nuntakarn Aimsaard of Thailand. 

In men’s doubles, second seeds Shetty and Satwik once again showed why they are so highly rated on the international circuit by dominating the eighth seeded French pair.

The Indian combination grabbed the initiative from the word go with Shetty taking control of the net exchanges as they opened up a 11-2 lead and then maintained the tempo to pocket the opening game.

They will now face top seeds Hendra Setiawan and Mohammad Ahsan, who defeated Malaysia’s Ong Yew Sin and Teo Ee Yi 21-15, 21-18 in the other semi-final.

Speaking about Sunday’s final, Satwik said they just want to go out and play their best against the pair they have idolised for years. “Every match is a fresh match against them. It’s important how we feel on the given day and we want to be at our best.”

Shetty felt that the key to winning on Sunday would be to control the net. “They may not be the quickest pair on the court but they are the smartest. They like to keep the rallies short and we have to counter their game plan.”

The men’s doubles victory had also set the stage for a grand finale with Sindhu taking on Katethong, ranked 26 places below the Indian.

It was the Thai left-hander who was the first to take off as she clinched seven straight points to take a 7-1 lead and had a five-point advantage at the mid-game interval. Sindhu just couldn’t find her rhythm and lost the game rather tamely.

However, she regrouped herself well in the second and though Katethong kept pace with her till 10-10, the former world champion was beginning to assert herself and clinched the game banking on her big smashes.

The decider started well for Sindhu as she took the first two points but once again began making uncharacteristic errors that allowed Katethong to take control of the proceedings. The Thai player countered her opponents cross court drives and the Indian had no way to fight back.

In the other women’s singles semi-final, Aakarshi Kashyap took the fight to Busanan Ongbamrungphan, ranked 64 places above her in the world ranking.

The world No. 76 Indian was willing to play the long rallies against her Thai opponent, time and again caught her off-guard with flicks from the net and even earned five game points in the opening game.

But Ongbamrungphan’s experience helped her survive those game points and Kashyap ended up making the errors to hand over the initiative to the second seed.

She could not recover from that reversal and lost.

India’s only semi-finalists in women’s doubles category, Haritha MH and Ashna Roy went down 21-12, 21-9 against fourth seeds Benyapa Aimsaard and Nuntakarn Aimsaard of Thailand.

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