India’s B Sai Praneeth overcame a stiff resistance from Indonesia’s Jonatan Christie 17-21, 21-18, 21-19 to clinch the Thailand Grand Prix Gold men’s singles title in Bangkok on Sunday.
The world No 24, who was playing his first tournament after winning the Singapore Superseries crown in April, clinched his first ever Grand Prix Gold title in an hour and 11 minutes to extend his unbeaten run on the international circuit to 11 matches.
Sunday’s final, however, would have gone either way but Sai Praneeth held on when things weren’t going his way against his 19-year-old opponent. With both players coming into the final without dropping a game, it was clear that the summit clash would be a battle of attrition than skills.
It was Christie who was off the blocks faster, opening up a 3-0 lead with Sai Praneeth struggling with his judgement and the length of his strokes.
The 24-year-old Indian did claw back with his trademark net dribbles but Christie’s defensive skills and court coverage never allowed the Singapore Open champion the comfort of hitting a steady rhythm.
This meant that Sai Praneeth was guilty of making the occasional error while trying to go for the kill and that cost him the opening game.
The world number 24, however, came back stronger in the second game as he looked to control the net more and pushed his opponent to the back court from most of the period. This helped him open up a 9-3 lead.
The 19-year-old Indonesian, though, showed that he was matured way beyond his age as he changed the pace of the game and began frustrating the Indian. he took eight of the next nine points to go into the break with a one-point advantage.
It was a neck-and-neck affair from there on till a flurry of overhead smashes gave Sai Praneeth four game points. Christie managed to save two of them but a well disguised half smash from the Indian on the next took the tie into the decider.
Both the players simply raised their standard in the decider as they exhibited the full repertoire of their strokes from the net flicks to the flat drives and the booming smashes to the deceptive drop slices.
Christie took the early advantage as he opened up an 8-3 lead. Sai Praneeth, though, clawed back by reducing the lead to just one point at the change of ends. He took the lead soon after the resumption of play.
A wrong judgement call at 17-16 by Sai Praneeth could have raised Christie’s spirits, but the Indian first forced his younger opponent into an unforced error and then came up with a defensive block that brought down the Indonesian on all fours.
It was the experience of Sai Praneeth that made the difference in the final analysis as he wrapped up the final with a jump smash.