In the decisive phase of his career

Sai Praneeth shares a light moment with Saina Nehwal and P. V. Sindhu (right) at the Gopi Chand Academy in Hyderabad.-K.V. SUBRAHMANYAM Sai Praneeth shares a light moment with Saina Nehwal and P. V. Sindhu (right) at the Gopi Chand Academy in Hyderabad.

The recent victories against big names like Taufik Hidayat and Yun Hu has instilled in Sai Praneeth the self-belief that should see him step into the big league with a different mindset. By V. V. Subrahmanyam.

Bhamidipati Sai Praneeth is back to training under his mentor and India’s Chief National Coach Pullela Gopi Chand at the latter’s academy in Gachibowli (Hyderabad). With his confidence on a high following a string of impressive victories over some of the big names in the international circuit, Sai Praneeth has every reason to look ahead with hope.

“Yes, what happened in the Asian circuit recently is past though I did score some big wins. The more important thing is for me to be consistent,” says the youngster, who has a mature head on his shoulders.

Taufik Hidayat will surely remember Sai Praneeth for a long time. The reason: the 20-year-old Indian, another potential champion from the famed Gopi Chand Academy, had defeated the former World and Olympic champion in the first round of the Indonesian Open Super Series recently. It was not the kind of farewell the great Hidayat, playing in the final tournament of his career, would have hoped for.

Later, in the Singapore Open Super Series first round, Sai Praneeth shocked the World No. 4, Yun Hu of Hong Kong.

For Sai Praneeth, these wins should definitely be the high points of his career. Known to be a quiet person, he has always let his racket do the talking.

“Yes, winning against Hidayat is a dream come true for me. I was not thinking too much; I just wanted to give my best and I am delighted with the end-result,” Sai Praneeth says about his famous win.

Unfortunately, the Indian ran into World No. 1 and 2012 London Olympics silver medallist Lee Chong Wei in the next round, and it was too much to expect him to pull off another big win in the space of two days. So, the result was on expected lines as Sai Praneeth lost to Lee.

However, Sai Praneeth, a student of St. Paul’s College in Hyderabad, won the hearts of many with his performances. The victories against Hidayat and Yun Hu also instilled in him the self-belief that should see the Indian step into the big league with a different mindset.

One glaring anomaly in Sai Praneeth’s case is his inability to win titles consistently. So, after winning the Iran International Challenge, he should be desperate to win a couple of big titles.

Sai Praneeth, who won a double in the 2010 Junior Nationals, says that he owes a lot to Gopi Chand. And Gopi believes that Sai Praneeth has the ability to go a long way. “He has the range of strokes and importantly is good in defence with the ability to change the pace of the game which should be the key in his future endeavours. Definitely, his win over a player like Hidayat should do a world of good to his confidence,” the chief coach says.

Sai Praneeth has entered the decisive phase of his career, a time when he feels he can carve a niche for himself in the big league.