Bangkok (Thailand): The Indian men’s badminton team scripted history after reaching their maiden Thomas Cup final with 3-2 win over Denmark in a thrilling semifinal, here on Friday.
Indian men had previously reached the Thomas Cup semis in 1952, 1955 and 1979. India will now play Indonesia in the historic final on Sunday.
Playing their first Thomas Cup semis in 43 years, India kicked off their final four fixture at the Impact Arena with Lakshya Sen, ninth in the badminton world rankings, facing off against world No 1 and Olympic champion Viktor Axelsen.
This was the two shuttlers’ third clash of the year. While the Indian youngster shocked the Danish ace in the German Open semis in March, Axelsen registered the win in the All England Open final later that month.
Sen started the match well but Axelsen soon took charge and cruised to a comfortable win in the first game. The Indian shuttler managed to produce some breathtaking moments in the second game but was not consistent enough to worry the Dane, who wrapped up the first rubber 21-13, 21-13 in 49 minutes.
However, India’s top doubles players Chirag Shetty and Satwiksairaj Rankireddy brought India back into the tie, beating Kim Astrup and Mathias Christiansen 21-18, 21-23, 22-20 in an hour and 17-minute-long marathon clash. After winning a hard-fought opening game, the Indian duo squandered two match points in the second as the Danes forced a decider.
Kim Astrup and Mathias Christiansen looked favourites to complete a come-from-behind victory after taking an 8-5 lead early into the third game but the Indian duo, spurred by an exceptional patch of play by Chirag, turned it around and brought India level at 1-1.
India then took the lead in the tie for the first time with Kidambi Srikanth beating fellow world championships silver medallist Anders Antonsen 21-18, 12-21, 21-14. It was an intriguing contest with the Indians recovering from a slow start to take the first game. The Dane hit back, attacking Srikanth at the backcourt to come roaring back in the second.
Srikanth took the lead in the decider but Antonsen almost caught up before the former world No 1 broke away and secured the win. Denmark levelled the score to 2-2 after Anders Skaarup Rasmussen and Frederik Sogaard downed the Indian pair of Vishnu Panjala and Krishna Garaga 21-14, 21-13 in the fourth match.
With the final singles tie set up as the decider, HS Prannoy, who had produced a clutch win against Malaysia in the quarters, stepped up against Rasmus Gemke. Though suffering an ankle injury early in the contest, Prannoy produced a remarkable 13-21, 21-9, 21-12 come-from-behind victory to see India past the finish line.