India’s biggest moment in a team event arrived late on Friday, after a crackling Thomas Cup semifinal against Denmark in which fortunes shifted back and forth.
India had forced the fifth match thanks to their lead doubles of Satwiksairaj Rankireddy/Chirag Shetty and Kidambi Srikanth in second singles. The tie was on the verge of collapsing for India after Kim Astrup and Mathias Christiansen saved a total of five match points to stand on the brink of making it 2-0 for Denmark.
But there was no heartbreak, no dwelling on the missed opportunities; a sixth match point was calmly earned and Rankireddy dared to flick-serve Kim Astrup.
“I thought we were finished when we were down in the third game. Luckily we found our rhythm. I was unsure what serve to do (on sixth match point). Finally I thought let’s try the flick serve, let’s see what they’ve got.”
“It took courage to try the flick serve,” added Shetty. “In the second game from the same side two of our flick serves went out.”
Kidambi Srikanth outplayed Anders Antonsen in a long-drawn affair; Denmark evened the score through Anders Skaarup Rasmussen/Frederik SØgaard who outclassed Krishna Prasad Garaga/Vishnuvardhan Panjala to set the stage for the fifth match.
Prannoy started at the more difficult end against Rasmus Gemke, but a far bigger worry cropped up unexpectedly as he fell and twisted his right ankle.
“I wasn’t able to lunge. There were a lot of things going on in my head. After the slip it was hurting a bit more than usual and I was wondering what to do, I thought I’d try to manage. I wasn’t sure of what movement I could do and what I couldn’t do. It felt like it was all going downhill, but I thought I shouldn’t give up, let me just see how it goes. I was hoping it wouldn’t get aggravated. The pain started reducing towards the end of the second game, and in the third game I was feeling much better.”
As he got into the match, Prannoy moved with fluid ease, always in position for Gemke’s hardest shots. Meditative in between points, and unhurried during play, he’d found his zone. The mental work with psychologists over the last six months had paid off.
“More than physical, it was a mental game. I just couldn’t afford to lose the focus. I was thinking a lot on court, but I have done a lot of mental training over the last six months, and all of that worked today. I was extremely focussed, and this is what I’ve been working for, to be in the zone.”