India’s B Sai Praneeth upset reigning Olympic champion and second seed Chen Long 21-18, 21-13 on Saturday to reach the Swiss Open Super 300 final at Basel.
The victory, the Indian’s first over the Chinese star in three matches, means that Sai Praneeth has reached a summit clash on the BWF tour for the first time since the 2017 Thailand Open final.
He will now face another Chinese Shi Yuqi (the top seed) in the final.
The world number 22 Indian clearly started ad the underdog against Chen Long, who had never dropped a game against Sai Praneeth.
And it looked like the match will follow a similar script when the Chinese opened up a 6-2 lead in the opening game.
But Sai Praneeth showed that he wasn’t going down without a fight by winning one of the longest rallies of the match to level scores at 6-6. Though errors followed immediately and Chen went into the mid game interval with an 11-7 lead, Sai Praneeth had started to find his footing.
He proved just that when he won 10 of the 12 points after restart. He was brilliant at the net and was showing the patience required to earn a point against the high consistent Chinese. In the bargain, he also managed to force Chen into making mistakes of his own.
With the opening game in his pocket, Sai Praneeth grew in confidence, showing his repertoire of strokes but not wavering from the game plan built around loads of patience. He did lower his guard a little when he allowed Chen to close in on 11-10 after taking a 11-7 lead at the break. But luck was on the Indian’s side as a net chord gave him his 13th point and he did not look back thereafter. He used the round-the-head cross court shots with accuracy and outplayed the Chinese at the net.
It was only befitting that he won the match with another round-the-head crosscourt winner to wrap the match in 46 minutes.
Lakshya Sen upset by lower-ranked player
Elsewhere, Lakshya Sen went down fighting at the China Masters after suffering a three-game defeat in the men’s singles semifinals in Lingshui on Saturday.
Lakshya, looked upon as the next big thing in Indian men’s badminton, fought tooth and nail for one hour and two minutes before losing 9-21, 21-12, 17-21 against China’s Weng Hongyang, ranked 154 places below the Indian.
Hongyang will play compatriot Liu Haichao in the final on Sunday. Haichao got the better of Malaysia’s Iskandar Zulkarnain 21-9 20-22 21-16 in another engrossing semifinal contest.