B Sai Praneeth, India’s sole representative in men’s singles badminton at the Tokyo Olympics, lost his opening Group D match against Israel’s Misha Zilberman. However, Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty pulled off a thrilling win in their Group A opening match against the world No 3 pair of Yang Lee and Chi-Lin Wang from Chinese Taipei.
Chirag and Satwik, world No 10, notched up a stunning 21-16, 16-21, 27-25 win over third seeds Lee and Wang, who had claimed back-to-back titles at the Yonex Thailand Open, Toyota Thailand Open and BWF World Tour Finals earlier this year.
Playing in their first Olympics campaign, Satwik-Chirag suffered a few hiccups in the second and third games, making a number of uncharacteristic errors, but they held their nerves when it mattered most.
Lee-Wang looked set to close out the match but the Indians made a late surge in the decider to get their noses ahead. They were then tested to their limits as the Chinese Taipei pair saved five match points and then earned one of their own. But the Indians dug deep again to clinch it.
Praneeth, who lost 21-17, 21-15 in 40 minutes, started well taking an early lead at 8-4 but lost his way after.
He maintained a slim advantage at the mid-game break before Zilberman took charge of proceedings. The Israeli raced ahead and won ten out of the last eleven points of the first game to take it 21-17 as the Indian committed a series of unforced errors.
In the second game, Sai Praneeth looked quite flat and didn’t really recover. He lacked in his execution, which allowed Zilberman to lead 15-13. The Israeli shuttler dominated the proceedings next to zoom to a 19-14 as the Indian miscued a few shots.
A cross-court smash helped Zilberman to grab six game points and he sealed it on the fourth attempt.
A fired-up Zilberman continued to look good with Praneeth sending the first two shuttles long. The Israeli soon led 8-5. Zilberman continued to dictate terms in the rallies as Praneeth lagged 7-11 at the interval.
Praneeth couldn’t match the pace of his opponent, who seemed to be playing at a different level. Zilberman eventually grabbed 8 match points after Praneeth went long again and sealed the opening match with a smash.
With PTI Inputs
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