B Sai Praneeth put his best foot forward and managed to push world No 2 Shi Yuqi for over an hour but ended up at the losing end in the men’s singles final of the Swiss Open Super 300 badminton tournament in Basel on Saturday.
The unseeded Sai Praneeth lost 19-21, 21-18, 21-12 in a 68-minute encounter.
The world number 22 Indian, who had defeated Olympic champion Chen Long in the semi-finals, began from where he had left on Saturday as he controlled the net against Shi Yuqi and scored winners with his cross court smashes.
It looked like Sai Praneeth, playing in his first final since June 2017, would race away with the opening game when he opened up a 18-12 lead but allowed his opponent to make a comeback with a couple of unforced errors.
But with scores level at 19-19, Shi Yuqi hit a cross court smash wide and Sai Praneeth pounced on the opportunity to pocket the game.
The second game was a neck-and-neck affair as both players mesmerised the crowd with the quality of their strokes and a bad line call at 8-9 allowed Sai Praneeth to go into the break with a one-point advantage. But by this time, Shi had started hitting his strides and clearly had more strength and power in his legs to raise the tempo of the match.
To his credit, Sai Praneeth managed to keep pace with the Chinese till 18-18 in the second game before Shi targetted the Indian’s body with his powerful smashes to force a decider.
In the third and final game, Shi showed his experience by constantly changing the pace of the rallies and the improved quality of his strokes simply caught Sai Praneeth unawares.
The Indian tried to keep pace but ran out of steam in the second half of the game as Shi won the match with yet another smash on Sai Praneeth’s body.