Sai Praneeth recently opened his Super Series wins’ account as beat fellow Indian Kidambi Srikanth in the all Indian final of the Singapore Open. Praneeth went a set down but was adamant to turn things around and he picked up the next two games to produce one of the most emotional moments in his career.
Here are a few lesser known facts about the talented player that is living in the shadows of other badminton superstars in the country:
1) Praneeth was inducted in the 1st batch of Gopichand Academy
When the former great player decided to go the coaching way, his academy started operations in 2005 and promoting talent right from the start, Gopichand inducted a few talented players into his setup. Sai Praneeth was one of the boys selected then and showed immense promise.
2) Former Junior World Championship medal winner
Praneeth was brilliant and possessed the wow factor that would make fellow players, coaches and even opponents talk in awe from the age group level. The variety of strokes and court movement meant that he dominated the singles and doubles (with Pranaav Chopra) circuit in India and even bagged a Badminton World Federation (BWF) Junior World Cup bronze in 2010 and represented India in the 1st Youth Olympics.
3) Signs of greatness
A 20-year-old shuttler from Hyderabad had sent shockwaves through the international badminton circuit when he stood tall in front of some of the heavyweights in back-to-back tournaments in 2013. Eyebrows were raised and a few just couldn’t believe what they were watching. The former All England Champion Muhammad Hafiz Hashim of Malaysia was the first victim as an unseeded B Sai Praneeth fought back from a game down to win the match dramatically in the first round of the SCG Thailand Open.
Just weeks after that iconic win, Sai Praneeth spoilt former World and Olympic champion Taufik Hidayat’s final international appearance in front of his home crowd in the opening round of the 2013 Indonesia Open. He continued his courageous show at the Hong Kong Superseries by upsetting crowd favourite Hu Yun just days after the Thailand tie. Shuttlers and fans alike started to wonder if these were the early days of the next superstar.
4) Fitness Issues took centrestage
Having started brilliantly, one of Praneeth’s hallmark was his ability to play all sorts of shots and cover the court well. Slowly, as he moved to bigger courts, his performance started to deteriorate owing to his lack of fitness.
It was time for injuries to hit him and Praneeth was plagued with persistent injuries which saw him make early exits in tournaments, and for around 16 months, he had a drastic dip in form as he remained out of touch with the game. During the gap, he witnessed fellow shuttlers like Ajay Jayaram, HS Prannoy, Kidambi Srikanth and PV Sindhu grow immensely.
5) Comeback was on
Having seen his fellow shuttlers go big, Praneeth was determined and he marked his comeback by lifting the Sri Lanka, Lagos and Bahrain International series in 2015.
This was just the start as in 2016, Praneeth was back in the mix, continuing his beloved trend of upsetting big names following his thumping straight-game victory over the World no. 1 Lee Chong Wei of Malaysia in the first hurdle of the All England Championships. In July, the Hyderabad-born shuttler decided to take the Canada Open on his own and claimed his maiden Grand Prix title after defeating Korean Lee Hyun 21-12, 21-10 in what was a lop-sided final.
6) Only the fourth Indian to win a
Top seed Jan O Jorgensen’s withdrawal from the Malaysian Open handed Praneeth his lucky spot in the main draw. In what quickly became a joke between the Indian players, his compatriots took a jibe at him on his entry into the tournament
That was a fornight before Praneeth scripted history with his maiden Superseries title and becoming only the fourth Indian after Saina Nehwal, PV Sindhu and Kidambi Srikanth to win a Superseries title.
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