Praneeth ends 36-yr wait, secures Worlds medal

Prakash Padukone was the first Indian to win a men’s singles World Championships medal — a bronze in the 1983 edition.

Sai Praneeth celebrates the unbelievable moment after creating history in the World Badminton Championship 2019 quarterfinal.   -  REUTERS

 

B. Sai Praneeth became the first Indian male shuttler in 36 years to secure a medal in the BWF World Championships after a straight-game victory over Indonesia’s Jonatan Christie propelled him into the semifinals here on Friday.

World No. 19 Praneeth, who got the Arjuna Award this year, notched up a 24-22 21-14 win over the Asian Games gold medallist and World No. 4 Jonatan in the quarterfinals.

Prakash Padukone was the first Indian to win a men’s singles World Championships medal — a bronze in the 1983 edition.

Praneeth, who had won the Singapore Open in 2017 and finished runner-up at Swiss Open earlier this year, came into the tournament with a 1-2 head-to-head count against the Indonesian.

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In the opening game, the Indian jumped to a 8-4 lead, but Jonatan stepped up to claw back at 10-10 before Praneeth managed a slender 11-10 advantage at the break with the help of a delicate shot at the net.

The duo continued their battle after the breather as Jonatan kept breathing down the Indian’s neck.

Praneeth eventually grabbed a game point at 20-19 with a cross court smash at the back, but Jonatan turned the tables and enjoyed a game point himself.

However, Praneeth ensured he had the last laugh. The Indian unleashed a powerful smash which the Indonesian hit wide and then his rival’s weak return got buried at the net.

Praneeth missed the shuttle at the backline to concede a point but he grabbed the required two points — the last one with a cross court smash — to pocket the opening game.

The second game turned out to be a one-way traffic as Praneeth came out with all cylinders blazing to first surge to a 7-1 lead, and then a massive 11-3 advantage at the break.

Jonatan tried to recover and narrowed the gap to 12-15 but the Indian stepped up to grab six match points, punishing a weak return and then shutting the door on Jonatan who went wide.