B. Sai Praneeth cherishes ‘special’ World C’ship medal

The shuttler is only the second Indian to win a World Championship medal — among men — after Prakash Padukone.

Sai Praneeth lost 13-21, 8-21.   -  Getty Images

B. Sai Praneeth pitchforked himself into the big theatre — the World championship semifinal — for the first time in his career. But his run ended with a loss to defending champion Kento Momota in Basel, Switzerland, on Saturday.

Yet, the 27-year-old Indian shuttler can fly back home a contented man. After all, he became only the second men’s player from India, after the legendary Prakash Padukone in 1983, to win a bronze medal at Worlds.

By all means, it was an impressive performance from Praneeth given the fact that expectations were more from the higher-rated and fancied K. Srikanth. The semifinal was never on the expected lines for Praneeth, who came a cropper against Momota.

‘Everlasting memory’

“Yes, unlike the Super Series titles (Sai Praneeth was champion in the 2017 Singapore and Thailand Open), a World Championship medal stands out as an everlasting memory and I am proud to be the first Indian after the great Prakash sir to win another one for country,” said Praneeth in a chat with Sportstar.

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“Yes, I have been playing really well. This Worlds is a very special for me for I finally got a medal at this level and I should cherish this for long,” Praneeth said.

Interestingly, he lost to Momota in the quarterfinal last year and in his first appearance in 2017 made it to the pre-quarterfinal. “Definitely, disappointing to lose this way in Worlds semifinal but credit to Momota for the way he played. He was on a different plane altogether,” the Indian said. “Unlike others, he doesn’t give you too many chances. Makes you frustrated with his solid defence,” the Indian shuttler said.

‘Far superior’ opponent

“Well, the start was good in the first game but after a few mistakes I lost my rhythm. Somehow, I couldn’t get it back against a player who is obviously far more superior to me,” acknowledged Praneeth.

“I must say I was definitely tired after so many good matches in the previous rounds and need to improve my fitness levels,” he said. “Well, in the Olympic qualifying year for next year’s Tokyo Games, the bronze in Worlds should mean a lot to me,” he concluded, dedicating his maiden Worlds medal to his parents, grandparents, chief coach Gopi Anna (P. Gopi Chand) and the staff at the Gopi Chand Academy.